Thursday, April 24, 2003

vignette: face

They could not remove the face in the glass without destroying or replacing the window completely. Despite their best efforts, scrubbing, washing, scratching, the image remained where it was, a frozen expression of forbidding dourness, and so the entire family proceeded to pretend it did not exist.

All except Sonia, ever sensitive, who asked her mother if the face in the kitchen window pane belonged to someone.

“What face?” her mother replied, continuing to apply Oil of Olay on every exposed extremity.

Sonia thought for a moment that her mother, like all adults she knew, had betrayed her, feigning blindness to something so apparently visible. She decided instead that the face in the glass was selectively invisible. That assumption kept her mother securely on her side and preserved the objective reality of the image.

One evening, Sonia climbed down the stairs, hurried across the cold living room floor in her bare feet, and pulled a chair in the kitchen to look at the face again.

It was certainly no one she recognized, and in her seven years of existence she was convinced she could identify all the people who had crossed into her life, from the swollen infant in the bassinette next to her in hospital nursery to the woman in the pale blue Camry who stopped in front of their house yesterday, asking for directions.

The face had furrowed brows, slit for eyes and four visible teeth.

At that moment, Sonia realized that it belonged to none other than Nanay Nena, her grandmother’s grandmother’s mother, whom she had never met but recalled from a story her grandmother told her before she died of a tragic explosive sneeze.


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