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Secrets

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Secrets


This is the secret I've never shared before… Not with anyone. Ever. I've even tried to keep it hidden from myself at times, but in the deepest recesses of my mind, I knew I had lost her.



She used to come home after a long day at work and kick off her high heels, leaving tiny black scuff prints on the white wall. What’s black and white and red all over? Her shiny red heels against an unintentional zebra print backdrop. “Honey, I’m home!”, she’d call out.

I had always wondered how she managed to keep her lips and cheeks so rosy and pristine after such a long day at work, but I never questioned; I simply let her rosebud lips kiss me sweetly and ask me about my day. “Any mail today?” she’d always ask, and I’d always neglect to answer right away, lest she be in one of her rare moods of snappish delight, like a lioness just waiting to pounce and then ravish herself on the bloody limbs of victory. I didn't want to worry her with talk of money or bills we couldn't pay, about the consistent threat of getting our water or electricity turned off.

So then it would be my turn to play inquisitor: “Any news?” She knew what I meant; it was sort of a game between us, if you consider Russian roulette a game. What I was really asking her was if anyone we knew was dead. “No news today”, she’d say, as a freshly beaded drop of sweat dripped down into my coffee mug.


She would make her way to the living room and proceed to take her favorite seat on the beat-up corduroy couch; it was rigid and uncomfortable, even on the day we bought it, but she was in love, and the diva always got her way. She would casually flick on the small TV set, like she wasn't about to witness some form of death, decay or destruction, but instead watch a somewhat more acceptable form of slaughter, such as a cooking show displaying a lamb being led to a butcher’s block to be made into tomorrow night’s dinner.

Mrs. Rosenthal’s book shop was gone; burnt to a crisp, so that only the charred black frames stood tall against a purple sky; the pages still fluttering down like wingless birds. The news did a great job of making the entire scene look peaceful. Serene. Majestic even.

But there was nothing peaceful about it.
The tyrant had struck again and the oppressed could not scream. They could not weep. They could not run and they could not hide. All they could do was stand, dry-eyed and stone faced as their world ear-shatteringly crashed around them.

She cried. She turned off the TV and she cried. A single teardrop slid down her now ruddy cheek. That was the last tear she would ever cry.


***



I am now sixty-seven years old. It was fifty years ago today that my mother’s cheeks forever lost their rosy glow. It was fifty years ago today that my mother was murdered in the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp.



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