Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Under Sophie's Silk


The rumors claimed her mother was a witch. That Sophie had burned her hand not while her mother made cornbread on an iron stove, but while she stirred evil spells in a cauldron. The effect was the same. Children were warned by their parents, or found her silk gloves strange, or were terrified when they saw what the gloves concealed.

Sophie herself couldn't remember exactly how it had happened. She was two, and she remembered the black iron, panic, not being able to get away. She remembered the pain, but that was it. According to the story she'd always believed, she'd rested her hand against an iron stove, and stuck. She passed out when they pulled her off. She'd healed, and could even use it normally. But for the rest of her life, she would have a perfect, round hole through the palm of her right hand. So when the bandages came off, the silk gloves went on.

But the older she got, the more she wondered. She saw more cauldrons in her dreams. She questioned more memories. But what really took some getting used to were the things she'd started seeing when she took her gloves off.

Alone, at night, she would hold up her hand in a greeting to no one in particular, and stare through that hole at the opposite wall. Sophie wondered how different things might be if she looked normal. If her mother weren't gone, if she weren't alone in the world. And eventually she'd console herself; remind herself how much worse it could be. But she'd still put the gloves back on before going to bed.

One night last December, though, she found she wasn't looking at the opposite wall. That she was, in fact, holding her hand up in greeting to someone. A man's face peered back at her through her palm.

She screamed, jumped out of her chair, and found... that she was still alone. That she was losing it. Just seeing things.

She gave up dwelling on her disfigurement for a few weeks afterward. Obviously, it wasn't doing her health much good. But old habits, especially the private self-destructions, die hard. And during a winter storm, drinking expensive wine from the bottle, she took off the glove and held up her hand.

The same face peered through, cocking an eyebrow. Sophie put down her hand. No one there. She lifted it again, and in a bravery that can only be explained by believing she was dreaming, said...


"I thought you could see me!"

"Yes, well, I'm still not sure if you're there or not."

"Me either, really. But it's nice to have someone to talk to."

And that was all they did. Talked about the war, Dostoevsky, their jobs. His name was Hobbes. He talked about becoming invisible - he wasn't sure if he was dead, he just knew that one day, he woke up and no one could see him. Sophie told him about her accident, and apologized for ignoring him for three weeks. And that she couldn't think of any way to help. It seemed silly to "make contact" and have no idea where to go from there. It wasn't like the movies at all.

"If I could come talk with you again, that would be a service in itself, ma'am." He tipped his hat, and she followed him with her hand as he opened and walked out the front door.

And that night, Sophie went to bed without her gloves on, feeling a little less alone in the world, and slept well. She may have had strange trials ahead of her, but during that first experience, she'd finally found a friend to help her through.


1 comment:

Jonathan said...

holey metaphor... it kind of reminds of the movie Death Becomes her except for you know... the ghosts and civility.