I walked barefoot down the hall, my steps wordless on the black vinyl runner that ran from the living room to the facing doors of my bedroom and my parents’. On the small table at the very end of the hall, a planter held artificial ivy from the housewares section of our Ben Franklin store. It was one of my jobs to dust the ivy.

The house was having one of its long, mysterious episodes of silence. Breathing seemed raucous so I endeavored to breathe shallowly like I would if the Nazis were searching the house and I was hiding, sucked up into myself, in the narrow broom closet in the kitchen. I turned the pages of the magazine slowly and fully, making sure no page slapped against another, the paper hitting paper sound a risk of reading that I was only sometimes willing to take.

It was important not to make anything worse.

Gliding to the end of the hall, I stopped before turning left to open my bedroom door because my parents’ door was ajar. Reflected in the mirror of the vanity was my mother studying herself. She was wearing a half slip but nothing else, standing still with her arms at her sides, staring at herself in the mirror, her eyes focused on the weak smiles of the two pink scars on her chest.

I hadn’t seen them before. There had only been the bandages and then her new breasts that she’d bought in a special store at the hospital. They were bigger than she had been, I had noticed that much. But what had happened underneath was not entirely known to me. Until that moment.

I stared along with her. And then as soon as I did, she knew I was there. I didn’t wait for her to turn around. I knew she wouldn’t say anything. She would only walk across the room and close the door. She wouldn’t be angry in any way, would never chastise me for looking into her room or for seeing what I’d seen, nor would she ever discuss it. If she did, she would say, ‘what’s done is done’ and that would be all.

I turned the second I realized she knew I was there and went into my bedroom. I closed the door, careful to turn the knob so there would be no sound when it latched, then knelt on the bed that had been my sister’s before she’d left for college and opened the window wider, put my arms on the sill, breathed in the backyard smells and waited to be called for dinner.


At BlogHer#15, I attended a workshop that included discussion of ‘exploded moments.’ Intrigued by this, I decided to do a little series of exploded moments to see if I could get better at writing this way. This is #2.