Attachment to Insignificant Things
Our parents hurried us down to the basement when the soldiers arrived. My brother Theo pushed me to the far corner. His hand covered my mouth. He knew what to do. He was twelve.
Mother stayed above with father. She shouted, yelled at the soldiers in that voice of hers but I couldn’t hear anything from our father. Theo lifted a couple of boxes off an old trunk, the one our grandmother had brought over from Russia. He opened the trunk and pulled out a pile of clothes, then motioned for me to get in. I hesitated, shaking my head, not wanting to get into that box. But Theo’s touch, his hands gently guiding my shoulders down, conveyed the courage to step inside, curling myself over my grandmother’s fabrics.
I was too young to know what was happening in our house, what had been happening in this country. My last memories of them, my parents, my brother, my family was Theo removing the silver chain from his neck, this pendant with a dolphin that he won in a carnival game the previous summer at the beach. He didn’t say anything as he leaned over, placed it in my hand, and kissed my cheek. The lid softly closed. I heard him tossing the old clothes onto the top of the trunk.
The air in that trunk was stale. I thought of my grandmother, who I only remember in flashes of green light, moving towards me in the garden behind our house. A few seconds then she’s gone.
My mother screamed, a wail I’ve never forgotten, followed by the sounds of heavy boots on the basement stairs and men speaking loudly in a language I had never heard. I forgot to breathe. I didn’t hear Theo but soon the basement was quiet again. The footsteps and voices trailed out of the house.
Wanting Theo to open the trunk, I waited, holding his dolphin necklace tightly in my hands. When I could no longer stand the musty odor of the trunk, I pushed it open from the inside.
I stayed in that basement all night, huddled against the trunk, clutching Theo’s necklace, watching the staircase, afraid to go into the rest of the house. It was only when I heard the voices of my uncle and cousin did I run up and throw open the door, leaving a horror that has followed me silently all these years.