Monday, May 31, 2010
(Photo: Painting from the Philadelphia Museum of Art)
The five of them laughed at themselves as the gaslights relit the room. Nervous laughter. More than one face was ruddy from the fumes of brandy swirling in their glasses.
Eyes turned to Sonja, who laughed more than the others.
Laughter dancing at the very beginning fringes of hysteria.
"Did you actually see something?" the bearded man said.
They all fell silent.
Sonja's gaze avoided them and returned to the candle. The only thing lit during the séance.
"Actually, I did," she said.
"Your voice changed," one young woman said.
"Honestly, you scared the daylights out of me," said the other.
The last one to speak was an old woman. White hair and a severe face. The aunt of the bearded man. "Tell us what you saw," she said.
Sonja swallowed. "Well, I saw a young child. Nine years old. A girl."
"How do you know her age?" the bearded man asked.
"I know," Sonja said. "I know her age exactly."
One of the young women clicked her tongue. "There have never been reports of any child ghosts here. Certain no reports of anyone having died here at age nine."
"She didn't die here," Sonja said, smiling too thinly. "In fact, she didn't die at all."
The bearded man frowned. "I don't understand. How can you see a spirit of someone who isn't dead?"
"I don't know," Sonja said. "But I'm sure I know who it was. No one else would know what she told me."
"Could she have recently died, and you simply don't know it?"
Sonja shook her head.
The old woman stared, waiting for an explanation.
"But--" the bearded man started.
"No," Sonja said. "She didn't die. I'm quite sure of it." She tried to sip from her glass but found it empty. "Actually, you all can attest to that."
More confused faces.
"The little girl was me."
(On this Memorial Day, perhaps we can also remember our past selves--those lives within us who have passed out of reach and gone to a place not unlike death.)