This week’s writing challenge was about “collecting detail”. Though it was constructed around the details from a more recent time (this week), I looked instead at a memory from my childhood, because there is a power in those simple details that can never be forgotten.
The first thing I noticed was the once-white vest. The last thing I remember was the eyes. Large, teary, haunting. Her six-year-old eyes staring into mine. They shouldn’t have been so different. Even with the advantage of having the same relative background- similar features, the same skin colour. So why would her eyes be so different from mine? Maybe it was because we both held dolls, cradled ever so carefully in our arms. Only, while mine was fake- a blob of plastic with a meticulous paint job- hers was real. Very real. Held just like mine was, her doll would occasionally reach up to touch her face or bite its own fingers with a gummy mouth.
Mine didn’t do that.
Nearly 13 years later, those eyes remain branded in some corner of my mind, surfacing every now and then as a reminder of what I saw, of what I realized many years later.
Eyes are windows to the soul. There was innocence in those eyes, mirroring mine, but a kind of maturity that I can’t even imagine knowing at that age, or any age really. Her soul? Veiled beneath dark lashes that reached out to the world in a silent plea that her words couldn’t voice, those eyes were at once both open and closed to the world. A foggy window where only glimpses of the other side are visible, the rest a secret never to be shared.
It’s interesting how much a one glance can tell you, how long one second can stay with you. Memory is a finicky thing- it slips so easily, like the sand you try and hold on to, falling away faster the more you want it to stay. Then other times, it like a burr, stuck on you no matter how hard you try to make it release you, ensnaring you with tiny claws otherwise invisible. Wanted or unwanted, we have no control over the snapshots that pin themselves onto the memories of our life.
The first thing I noticed was the once-white vest. The last thing I remember was the eyes. Large, teary, haunting. Her six-year-old eyes staring into mine. And then they were gone. What seemed like an eternity escaped by in a mere moment. The commotion of the roadside- the honking and yelling and laughing and ringing and talking; the noise that seemed to have disappeared completely- came back like a gunshot, and suddenly we were driving on even as she stood, her doll still clasped tightly in her arms, moving on to the next car. Life went on.