May 14th, 1821

There is a brick cabin surrounded by silence and ivy in the back of the garden. I have never dared turning the doorknob until today.

Aunt Emeline was in town and uncle George was in his upstairs working room. It was noon. I walked around the cabin, picking very common violet flowers that grow between stones, meticulously sucking the sweet juice of the tip of their petals.

I stood before the door for a moment. The windows were covered with dust, one of them was cracked. Then I opened the door before even wanting to. The contrast with the bright spring light outside blinded me for a moment and the smell of tobacco permeated my hair and memory in an instant.

“Who is in there?” I asked.
“Nothing” a voice replied as if I had asked what was in there.

Then a face emerged from the thick darkness, a face so black I could have sworn it was painted. His eyes appeared, as white as truth, then his cigarette, broad lips, ears and jaw, as if I was witnessing a portrait being drawn before my eyes. My mind formed the words “You have the most beautiful face I have ever laid my eyes on” before I heard myself pronouncing them in a breath, loudly enough for them to hang in the dusty air between his imperial stare and my stillness.

He remained silent and stepped in the thin ray of light that was dividing the room. He was tall. I did not move.

Very slowly, his hand approached my face, making the dust in the air dance. With a finger he touched my forehead gently and traced the letters A N N on my damp skin. I closed my eyes for several seconds and when I opened them again he was already fading back into a place where people like me do not have names.

I left the cabin and walked home through low trees, feeling like a baptized child carrying a religious mystery in her untouched faith.

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