This post is the first of a series that will run all week. Thanks for reading.
The box always lived in the top of a closet. Dusty. Tattered, with its top spines pressed flat such that the top always slid off and tumbled to the floor if she was careless. Standing on tiptoe, stretching on the ledge of a precarious chair, her bare toes curling along the front, she knew what she wanted. That faded cardboard container held the nose she wanted to see again.
It was HER nose. Somehow.
People always told her she was pretty, but, when she looked in the mirror, she saw stringy hair, a bushy uni-brow, and a prominent, unfortunate nose. Too big for her face. Pointed. Forever scarred by a mishap when she was two. She chased a boy through the house, ran into a door, nose-first. She avoids the mirror. When she peeks, she feels like she’s starring in that sinus medicine commercial on television, the one where the inflamed nose grows into a person’s head. It becomes normal again when a healing mist is sprayed into a gaping nostril.
No over-the-counter concoction will help her rhino-issue. She knows it springs from ancient times – the mid-1800’s are a long time ago.
She rifles through the box to the yellowed photograph. A scowling man, clearly forced to stand against his will in trousers and vest, elegant topcoat lending grace to his picture-phobic expression. His head blooms from his outfit, all wispy hair and mustache that punctuates the ugliest face she has ever seen. She has nightmares about a mean-visaged man in period clothing, chasing her everywhere. In her dreams, he has a cane in one hand and a carved pipe with a naked lady on it in the other. He waves the cane in her direction, tries to touch her with its tip. When he blows pipe smoke, she knows her face will freeze in the hideous mask she sees him wearing.
He’s already polluted her face with his nose. The more she grows, the more it morphs into the one from the fragile photograph. Thomas Jefferson DeFriese.
If she has this man’s snout, will she also inherit his nasty disposition? The exaggerated frown that growls through the ages from every picture? Does a similar trait in the mirror indicate a kindred soul, a repeat performance of people who came before? A signature that indicates the right of that dead person’s spirit to inhabit the person they claimed with a certain smile, the same complexion, or a dastardly nose?
With trembling hands, she replaces the pictures. She tries to seal the nose into the box with tape, continuous ribbons that will keep him from whispering through the mist of her dreams.
Another glance in the mirror.
Is she destined to let him claim her, simply because he autographed her with his nose?