When my Great Aunt Lordes died she hadn’t left her bed in 40 years. My mom used to tell me in whispers that she had a skin problem that made her look “scary” and made her feel ashamed so she just stopped going out one day. I understand her shame when I pictured her how I knew her; clawed, spotted hands tugging at the blankets, fiddling with the remote, clumsily petting her many cats. Her eyes seemed to be in a constant battle to stay open, sunken deep into a rosaceous berry of a face. “Come give Lordes a kiss,” she would say as she slowly leaned away from the bed frame, welcoming her nieces in.
My mom brought my sister, Sabrina and I to visit her a couple of times a year. Each time I would sit in the pine-scented cab, pulling excitedly at my itchy tights. Sabrina sat beside me, pushing songs out of her chubby cheeks. We knew what to expect, we had done this before: in a way, a visit to Lordes’ house was similar to a holiday, a gift-stuffed day to look forward to and a day to miss when the strange glory of it was over. At the door we were always greeted with a distinct and enchanting doorbell melody, etched with high notes and lows (to this day it will pop into my head hauntedly and unexpectedly). Upon entering, we were hit with an overwhelming smell of cat and everything pertaining to cats (litter, hairballs, cheap, chunky food). Immediately after the smell had settled, the multitudes of them would rush towards us and weave through our legs. Sheryl would usher us in. Sheryl was Lordes’ “partner” as my mom explained. It wasn’t until I was older that I would learn about my family’s hunch that Sheryl was in love with her, but at the time it just meant someone who stayed there in the dark house, taking care of my Aunt Lordes, who for unclear reasons needed taking care of.
Sabrina and I gobbled up this fairytale world. Sometimes when I sat there fastidiously opening my presents, I would watch Lordes’ face from the corner of my eye. Her distorted image smacked me back into reality. She smiled while Sabrina and I opened our gifts and it confused me. Did her joy come from our naivety? Did she love us? Or was it the deceit of being able to hide her miserable life behind objects that would seem magic to any innocent girls? I would picture myself lying on a similar bed later in my life and feel goosebumps raising on my arms and legs, panicked at the thought.
Jane Drinkard, Age 17 Grade 12, Berkeley Carroll School, Silver Key