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THE DIARY by Devon Pitlor

I. My Little Pony and my little voice recorder

The same year that My Little Pony became a shelf


item in my bedroom, my little voice recorder took
its place in my little disco purse alongside of my
little tampon and my little eye shadow and my
little bra, that is, when I decided at school to no
longer to wear the latter and stuff it my purse and
went high beam down the halls in hopes of lighting
up the guys. That was when I took a sudden
liking to recording everyone’s voice, often looking
for something to use against them in some mean
girlish way later. I even decided that the Queer
Girl, Emily Brogat, might come of out her shell
long enough to say something worth keeping on
the memory device. Emily was known for saying
off the wall things like "A falling star can crush a
cow” and “Dirt makes us cleaner because we need
to wash it off.” With a little prompting, Emily
could be made to utter the damnest things, things
which could be played either in the study hall or
on the school bus for a general guffaw.

So there she was sitting in her corner of the


library during the second half of lunch hour doing
what she did best: writing in her massive leather-
bound diary, which she routinely snapped shut as
soon as someone came within a yard of her table,
which few did. Emily was small and stunted and
still had an Yggie troll tied to her bookbag. She
had squinty, vacant eyes and a faraway look and
never seemed to care that we made occasional
sport of her. Nor that she was generally ignored.

I asked Emily what was new, and she patted the


top of her diary. “It all here,” she said, “and
someday someone may read it. Rain only falls for
so long, then things get dry.”

I smiled politely at Emily and glanced at her huge


diary. “Must be full of a lot of stuff,” I offered.

“Oh yes,” she said musingly. “Lots of things.


Someday you may be surprised. A dead leaf
shows its true colors.”

“I doubt that,” I said flatly. “I mean about


reading it. We'll graduate in a few years, and I’m
going to college. Who knows where you are
going?”

Emily smiled politely at me and said “I sure don’t,


but I know this….” She paused in the mousy way
she had always done for years up through the
grades. I knew her zinger was coming. I asked
her to wait while I took out my memory recording
device and stuck it under her chin. She seemed
pleased but pensive. Emily had taken a liking to
being recorded.

“Bubble gum,” she began, “dries harder than


cement when you stick it under a desk or even
harder when you stick it into a hole in a brick
wall. It can cover the hole for a lifetime.
Remember that.”

They invented some new hand-held game that


year and my recorder stick went into the drawer
of lost youth.

II. My locker mate disappears

Emily Brogat became my locker mate at the start


of the 10th grade. She brought very little to
school. On the shelf above mine, which she could
hardly reach, was a crinkled brown lunch bag--the
same one she had put her food in since god knows
how long. It still had a bad crayon sketch of Hello
Kitty on one side and was stained with oil from
years of sardine sandwiches or whatever strange
food it was that Emily brought. Beside it was the
same pencil bag Emily had had since the 5th
grade, some horrid zipper thing with Shaun
Cassidy's pretty-boy face on the side of it cracked
by usage into a sardonic grin. Emily left no books
in the locker. She carried all her books around
from class to class, and, of course, spent the entire
lunch hour writing in her grotesque diary at a
corner table of the library, where, against rules,
she managed to eat as well.

As time passed, and boys came and went, along


with dances, games and school events, Emily
disappeared totally from my sight. She had no
friends, or at least not friends of my stripe and
made no presence at school whatsoever.
Occasionally, I would pass by her table at the
library and ask her something like "How is it
going?"

Once I remember she said "Like a nail through a


brick." I thought briefly of my memory stick, but
I had forgotten where I put it.

Then one day her table was empty. It took a while


after that for other kids from the various grades to
start using it because it was widely rumored that
Emily had had "cooties" and the table was
infected, but one day a group of other kids were
sitting around Emily's table and kicking one
another’s legs under it. They laughed and
screwed around, as we all did, and Emily was
forgotten. I noticed maybe two weeks later that
the soiled brown lunch bag and the pencil case
were missing too. Emily had totally vanished, and
I found myself not caring. But I did remember it.
I had a selfish reason for that.

I wanted to keep it a secret that year because I did


not want another locker mate. I had started to
smoke pot, and I wanted to keep my stash in a
corner of the locker on Emily's old upper shelf out
of sight. In my school, they could search our book
bags but not our lockers for some legal reason
dealing with drug dogs. So now I had the locker to
myself. I thought that if I inquired about Emily to
any adult, they may assign me a new locker mate,
and that would not be cool.

At the end of the tenth grade, a rumor circulated


that Emily Brogat had suffered from a fatal
disease that not only stunted her growth but had
made her get smaller and smaller each passing
day. By the middle of the eleventh grade the
following year, it was well-known by all that Emily
had shrunk down to the size of a peanut and had
just been discarded by some janitor. It was just
one of the many stories that circulated. Another
one was that Emily had gone to the "pregnancy
school" because she had been raped by a
chimpanzee. Everyone knew about the pregnancy
school, even though, in retrospect, I doubt there
was one. In the pregnancy school, there were no
boys, and the teachers gauged the growth of your
stomach with a tape measure each day. And you
had to pee each morning in a plastic jar without
splashing.

I still had the same locker, sans locker mate, in the


twelfth grade when Jason Cornbloom would not
leave my side. Jason tried to rub against me in
front of the locker once. It seemed cool and erotic
at the time. As the kids passed from class to class,
Jason pushed me back into my locker and pressed
his body against mine. I could feel his manhood as
he told me in a coarse whisper that he was not
Jewish and that whatever we were doing was
natural. We had done that before in his cousin's
car and once behind a hedge near the football
field. His approach was always prefaced by an
assurance that he was not Jewish. Words of love,
soft and tender...etc.

But Jason, who was over 6 feet tall, suddenly


stopped humping on me when his head entered the
top shelf of the locker. He said "What the fuck?"
and stopped suddenly. Up there where I could not
see it was a book pushed to the shadows at the
back of the shelf. I had never noticed it.

Jason reached up and took it down. It was dark


and leathery. "Queer Emily's old diary," Jason
said quizzically. "She must have left it for you
when she shrank up and disappeared."

I took the diary and threw it into my book pile at


the bottom of the locker and pushed Jason away.
The 6th period bell had already rung. We were
both late for class. No locker sex that day.

III. Emily's diary

There was a fire drill the next day followed by a


snow storm followed by a student suicide of a 9th
grader followed by a big drug bust in the tenth
grade hall followed by the news that twenty guys
had gang-banged Elizabeth Cainlone behind the
gym bleachers followed by the unexpected
announcement of an unscheduled dance that
night. Getting swept up in events, I tossed my
books and other odd paraphernalia into the
bottom of my locker, and Emily's diary must have
crawled to the very bottom of the pile and out of
my sight, where it remained until the tearful day
that we seniors had to clean out our lockers for the
last time. With a permanent marker on the locker
door I composed a stupid little message for the
next student who would take my place there. I
drew a teardrop beside the message. It was
something about how much fun I had had at DHS
and how I would miss the place. With real tears in
my eyes, I pushed the garbage in my locker into a
huge plastic bag and threw it in the trunk of
Mom's car. All the parents came to get their
graduating seniors that day. Tears flowed like
rivers in the parking lot. Our ceremony was
finished, and we would never see one another
again, even though we faithfully vowed that we
would. Jason Cornbloom kissed me deep in the
mouth and held me to his body. He put his tongue
on my neck and in my ear and whispered that he
was not Jewish and that we should do it one last
time that night. By that time, we had been doing
it quite often, and I had been treated many times
to his melodious come-on of "I'm not Jewish."
Fact is, we did do it that night, and for some
reason I forget or just don't want to write about, it
was the last time. Jason went off somewhere and
no doubt found some other girl to tell he was not
Jewish. The romance of high school was over.
Suddenly like that.

IV. My mother's verdict

Spring break brought both me and my senior year


roommate, Kyle, back to town. Kyle had a family
close to here, so he went to stay with them. I, in
turn, went to see my family. It was the cold sort of
a spring that made one long for white sand
beaches, but Kyle and I had decided on a more
sensible vaction with our respective families.

My mother was still packing. She had been


packing since Christmas. Boxes were everywhere.
She sorted languidly through piles of garments
that everyone knew no longer would fit her. My
father's possessions were at the other side of the
room, and they looked---characteristically---
neater. The divorce had been messy, but the
outcome was that since they both worked, the
house had to be sold and the money divided.

My mother lit a bent cigarette in the corner of her


mouth and asked me to sit down. "Angela, you
need to take all your stuff back to your
apartment," she said matter-of-factly. "The buyer
is taking possession next week." She gestured
unflatteringly at my father's things. "Ed's crap
has to go too, and mine as well. Suppose his
bimbo will come by sometime in her hot-ass truck
and get it all. The lazy bastard always gets some
broad to do his work for him. But your stuff..."

"I know, Mom. I'll put it in the car this afternoon.


Kyle won't mind. Our apartment is bare
anyway."

Kyle was a business major and would graduate at


the same time as I. His uncle had already offered
him a huge position in the family business with a
starting six-figure salary. His family made
cookies. Not as famous as Amos cookies, but
famous nonetheless. I would not have to try to
barter my useless art degree for a job. The avenue
of housewifery yawned before me. Kyle said he
wanted children right away after graduation. I
too began to like the idea of children. Kyle was
"pretty" everyone said, pretty in a manly way. I
was pretty too. We would make pretty children,
or at least that is what I told myself. I went up to
my old room with a few boxes. First, I would get
stoned. Then I would sleep. Then I would pack.
My mother continued her slow routine below. In a
week the house would be home to new people. I
didn't much care. Pleasantly buzzed, I stretched
across my old bed for the last time and listened to
the irregular beat of an early spring hailstorm.
Pellets of ice were driving out the old to make
room for the new. It was time for the new.

V. Kyle

Once back in Graniteville at the University, Kyle


put a huge calendar on the wall of our tiny
apartment, which was now choked by boxes of my
belongings brought from home. The calendar
displayed a picture of small snug cabin
surrounded by snow. The cabin had smoke coming
from its chimney and was, paradoxically, tied all
around with a red ribbon. Who, I wondered,
would tie a big ribbon around a cabin? There
were also friendly-looking rabbits and squirrels
running around outside with huge, glowing eyes,
wide with happiness about something hidden
within the cabin. Animals aren't that way, I
thought. They really don't give a fuck.

The purpose of the calendar was to cross off the


days between the last weeks of school and
graduation. Kyle crossed off today. We had
already lived most of today, so he could cross it
off. At the end of tomorrow, he would cross off
tomorrow, and so on. Then our life would begin--
up in Sagetown near the cookie factory or cookie
farm or whatever it was. Life was going to be
sweet. Kyle was pretty; I was pretty...etcetera and
etcetera. Pretty was joining pretty. The axis of
the earth was intact.

Sitting on the side of our bed, Kyle showed me a


start up check from his parents, who were also
partners in the cookie farm. He waved it like a
scented charm under my nose as if the $75,000
had a certain aphrodisiac odor to it that I was
supposed to smell. "Down payment for a house,"
he grinned. "More will be coming soon. We need
to get our finances in order. Finances are very
important." Again he wafted the aphrodisiac
check under my nose. It was brocaded in a lacy
design and had a picture of another tidy house on
it. That was the design his parents had chosen for
their checks. They liked tidy houses.

Then with greater passion than most times before,


Kyle bedded me, the check lying at my side.
During the process, I wondered briefly whether
we might get it stained with whatever and make it
non-negotiable. We did not. It had floated under
the bed by the time we were finished.

VI. The tidy house


It was empty because it was new. There were no
old memories here. Just the scent of fresh wood
and tile. In some places there were little piles of
sawdust that needed to be swept up, markers,
Kyle remarked, that the house was new. "Leave
them for a while. They give the place a new
feeling,"he said.

My boxes hardly took up any space at all in the


private study which would also serve as my studio.
"For your...uh...artwork" said Kyle carelessly.
When the furniture trucks arrived, the first room
furnished was the nursery. Now it was my job to
furnish it completely. I was dutifully working on
that. Rather than my artwork.

At the wedding, Kyle's uncle had placed a money


tree near the cake. Part of the ritual was for us to
pluck $100 bills from it. Then we did a money
dance. The protocol here involved people stuffing
money into our clothes as we danced by. I did not
know the dance steps, but I faked them. Each of
Kyle's numerous relatives stuffed money
somewhere into my gown. Kyle's uncle was so
emboldened as to stuff a wad into my cleavage and
get a quick feel of my breast as he did it. Kyle's
tuxedo was also bulging with banknotes. After it
all quieted down following our honeymoon in
Bermuda, Kyle reminisced and called the wedding
"sensual." Money was always sensual to Kyle. He
liked it very much. Money, I mean.

Little by little over the next weeks, the tidy


house---which was actually cavernous and still
bare in places despite the multiple deliveries of
furniture and furnishings---began to fill up with
"stuff," our stuff. Our future had begun. It was
like a big door opening onto an immense and
daunting vista of some promised candyland where
I began to feel lost and left out but said nothing.
The little mounds of sawdust disappeared thanks
to the maid service, and one day I felt compelled
to unpack my boxes and put things on shelves and
in cabinets. We had lots of those.

VII. I unpack finally

Kyle was off doing cookie business.

I opened the boxes. Things exploded forth like


bound elements from a past life separating and
exuding the stored energy of memories. My Little
Pony dropped out and fell to the floor. So did a
pastel lunch box, a carton full of plastic bead
necklaces, some Barbie coloring books, an algebra
textbook, stolen from school, inscribed with a
message from Jason Cornbloom. "I'm not
Jewish..." the message began. It ended with "I
love you. I want you." signed Jason Cornbloom.
Poor Jason, I thought. Too bad everyone had
always thought he was Jewish. It must have been
his name. I thought of my own name
Angela...Angela Cornbloom....no, he was right.
That would have never done. I would have had to
proclaim my non-Jewishness for the rest of my
life. It was better to be Mrs. Cookie King or
whoever I was now. Angela Cornbloom would
have spoiled the recipe of happiness. Angela
Cornbloom would have gone to bed every night
with a husband who came on to her with "I'm not
Jewish."

More molecules of the past separated as things


emerged from the boxes, more spent energy. I was
only 23, but a lifetime was in those boxes, a
lifetime that I was meant to forget.

Then I dug deeper and felt it before I saw it. It


was cold and lizard-like. It felt gnarled, hardened,
unforgiving and leathery. I knew suddenly what it
was before I even dislodged it from its hiding
place in the clutter of my pre-Kyle past, a past
which, according to Kyle, should not have even
existed because, as he so often said, our life was
beginning now.

Emily Brogat's diary. She had written in it


faithfully each day from about the fifth grade until
her disappearance. The odd girl who shrank into
nothingness, I thought. Discarded like a tiny
peanut left over from a lunchtime snack. Her
diary, left behind, while Emily, whom everyone
ignored, had been taken elsewhere. "Leaves show
off their true colors when they are dead." She had
so many weird quotes and was so outlandishly
strange herself. What on earth was I doing with
her huge, leather-bound diary? I held it in my
hands for a few minutes gazing blankly at it trying
to recall Emily. It was hard. She was just
someone's idea of a joke. A joke of a person, I
mused. But then two funny things happened.
First, I noted that the massive volume had a very
sturdy-looking lock on it. It was not a cheap book
with a strap that could be broken. It was bound in
metal fittings, and the band which held it together
was of some tough metallic fabric. I tugged at the
strap to see if I could break it open and...

Well, here comes the unbelievable part. The part


that I would not tell Kyle because Kyle liked only
believable things. The diary pulsated. Each time
I tried to tear it open, the leather would cringe
and move, and the diary would emit a beat like a
living heart, as if within it was the life that Emily
never had. Again and again, I tried to rip the
horrid thing open, and each time the leather
would shift like the skin of a live animal and the
whole book would pulsate wildly. I dropped it in
terror to the floor, and right before my eyes, the
brown leather covering grew veins. Big bulging
veins which coursed across the sides of the book as
if they were on the muscular arms of an
overworked stevedore. I watched in horror as the
gnarly veins spread. I picked up the book and set
it on a dresser. The pulsating had stopped.

If Emily had left me the diary, she must have left


me the key. I searched through the remainder of
my boxes in vain, examining each and every trivial
item from my past. There was no key, but I was
wildly tossing my mementos hither and thither
until my study was a mess. That would never
please Kyle. Ignoring the leathery volume, I
mechanically set about placing my possessions
into proper places on shelves and hangers. I tried
to forget the diary. I concentrated on the goal of
neatness, things in their proper station in a house
so worthy of order as mine.

Certainly the lifelike movements of the book were


simply chimeras of my imagination. So much had
happened so fast. Parent's divorce. College.
Marriage. New House. I was having a
breakdown. Yes, that was it. Too much
excitement all at once. A logical explanation. I
convinced myself that a breakdown had to be the
only answer, but my conviction only stuck for a
few minutes until the reality of the pulsating diary
again rose to forefront of my awareness. I needed
to forget, to concentrate hard on being a good wife
and eventual mother. Screw the diary and its
wicked veins.

I had the magical book of the Girl Who Shrank to


Nothingness, but so what? It wasn't mine to read
anyway. Why should I pry into it? I opened an
"after-dinner" beer, as Kyle termed them, and sat
down in the late afternoon sunshine of my art
study and stared at the diary. It did not move.
The desire to read what Emily had been writing
all those years surfaced and re-surfaced in my
head. I began swimming in the dark waters of
memory. What was it she had said about me one
day reading the diary? God, that was too long ago
to remember. What did all her quirky statements
add up to? A code? A message? Why had I even
bothered with a girl who had disappeared? And
how could someone disappear like that? I was a
college graduate now, and I had no need to believe
such nonsense. People do not shrivel up and
vanish. That was just crackpot teen talk.

Then I noticed it. The old memory stick. The


recording device my father had bought me once
on a whim. Did it run on a battery? Was the
battery still good? I grabbed it off the top of my
desk, forgetting even how it operated. Fumbling
with the tiny buttons, I heard a crackling sound
from deep within. Another tiny dial made the
crackle louder. Emily's voice from over ten years
in the past. Metallic and streaked with static, the
voice spoke to me there alone in my study in the
bold sunlight with Kyle away in Cookie Land.

“Bubble gum dries harder than cement when you


stick it under a desk or even harder when you stick
it into a hole in a brick wall. It can cover the hole
for a lifetime. Remember that.”

The memory stick then fell silent, giving up the


last molecule of its bound energy. No amount of
button poking would ever revive it again.

But the message rang in my ear. “Bubble gum


dries harder than cement when you stick it under a
desk or even harder when you stick it into a hole in
a brick wall. It can cover the hole for a lifetime.
Remember that.”

VIII. The bubble gum wall

At Thoreston Middle School, where I had


attended the eighth grade, there was an
abandoned stone wall in the back of the
playground where everyone stuck their gum. The
gum dried there and for some reason was
overlooked by the custodians and never removed.
All the kids did it. Had Emily? Was that was the
shriveling girl was talking about? I needed to see.
In my mind I foresaw exactly what happened the
next day. I saw everything like a vision before it
ever occurred. I approached the wall, a full grown
adult on a playing field intended for children, and
walked straight to the place where we deposited
our wads of gum. Amidst the hundreds of
calcified wads sticking against the wall, there was
one which called my name. No, rather it was
leathery brown. No, it had an E scratched into it.
No, it had a smiley face etched across it. Who
knows how I knew which one it was? I was in a
daze, a cloud, a mist from the past. With a
screwdriver, I pried the gum loose. Behind it was
a hole and in the hole was a yellow, shiny key. I
knew at once it would happen that way, and it did.
I saw it all alone in my study. Kyle was off doing
cookie things. I parked the car on the side street.
I avoided the glance of suspicious-looking adults
and went straight to wall.

And I brought back the key.

The next day it all happened precisely that way. I


knew it would.

IX. Kyle's two questions

Sitting down to dinner that night, Kyle asked me


the same two questions he had asked every night
since we had moved into the new house. "How was
your day today?" and "Do you feel pregnant?"

And, as usual, Kyle did not wait for an answer to


the first one. As far as Kyle was concerned, my
day was just as lovely in its privileged idleness as
had been all the days before. For the second, he
cocked an eye briefly to learn that I did not "feel"
pregnant nor was I. When I felt pregnant, I would
tell him. It was, as usual, clear that he was not
satisfied. Too many days had passed, and I had
yet to become anything close to feeling pregnant
because, in effect, I wasn't, and Kyle knew it and
was starting to resent it. I should have been
feeling pregnant months ago. That was Kyle's
answer to parenthood. You make love and the
woman feels pregnant and suddenly there is a
baby in the house. Unlike the cookie business and
its enormous successes of late, this part of the
golden pathway was not leading in the right
direction.

But today was different. I finally had something


of my own. A key and a living book, within which
was concealed the still beating heart of a girl that
had shrunk into atoms and vanished. That was
my secret, my past, something that Kyle didn't
know and wouldn't know. I felt liberated
suddenly because of my secret and my key. I felt
like a new breeze was blowing through the huge
house, one that Kyle could not feel but one which
gave me a solid frame around the fuzzy portrait of
my life. Kyle would rifle through some papers
tonight, make some satisfied mention of his
growing accounts, make some satisfied and
snorting passion over the top of me, go to sleep
satisfied, wake up satisfied and drive off to Cookie
Land in total contentment, and I...

I would open Emily's diary. Tomorrow. Alone. I


would discover its secrets. And I would never tell
Kyle.

And knowing that, I too became less fearful, less


strangled by my life and more satisfied.

Bedtime came, a bridge until tomorrow.

X. Emily's diary

The stark morning sun broke through the lace


curtains of my study. It was the worst kind of
illumination for the painting I was supposed to be
doing there, but its brightness was perfect for
looking at a gnarled leather volume with veins and
a pulse. The key burned in my hand. It fit
perfectly into the oversized lock, and the diary did
not make a stir. The key clicked almost
melodically as the lock sprang open. First page,
graying and brown, dated January 1, 1997. "Here
begins the Diary of Emily Cheswick Brogat,
student at Thoreston Middle School" Her
scratchy signature followed. Emily would have
been twelve, as I was, when the diary was
launched. The next pages were written in the neat
handwriting of a young girl. Some were decorated
with hearts and flowers. Other had bad drawings
of Hello Kitty and even a few of My Little Pony.
But the words were pure Emily. They said
nothing, or at least nothing I could understand.

"Green is growth. Brown is death. But dark


green is the passage."

"A mouse can lift an anvil if it has the heart and


faith to do it."

"We are thin balloons filled with dirty water, and


someday we all burst."

Page after page of pithy platitudes like these and


not a word about Emily herself, her "disease," her
life, her observations of real things and real
people. I scanned twenty or so pages for meaning.
Then I came to one entry. "Angela P. of the Cindy
G. team talked to me today."

I had been Angela P. And Cindy G., Cindy


Gresham, had once been the leader of the clique I
belonged to for a fleeting part of the eighth grade.
Emily had noticed that I had spoken with her. I
read beyond my name only to find more
meaningless observations like "Even an oiled
hinge creaks when you open the the wrong door."
Then again my name. "Angela P. spoke to me
again today." Apparently I was the only one
Emily ever had anything to say something about.
Perhaps I was the only one who had ever spoken
to her in an anything close to a normal way.

Expecting more indecipherable remarks about


things in general, I turned to the next page only to
find it written in a slightly different hand. Emily
never dated any of the pages of her diary, so it was
impossible to tell how old she was when her
penmanship suddenly became more mature or at
least different. But her style was now different
too.

On the next page she began "Dear Diary: " That


was a start back toward normalcy. I read on not
fully understanding the entry until it shocked me
so much that once again my eyes bleached over
and I dropped the book to the floor whereupon it
snapped shut and locked automatically, making an
almost sentient groan.

XI. An exact transcription of Emily's first


comprehensible entry

A fat, jolly insurance man visited our house today.


Kyle was there when he arrived. It was Kyle who
called him. We sat around the kitchen table, and
the agent pulled out a ream of papers. He laughed
at me and said "At your age, Missy, you are quite
insurable, and the premium for $700,000 worth of
term life is next to negligible." Kyle interjected that
we had enough money, so let's bump it up to one
million. The man smiled and said that would take
two policies, but because of our incomes we could
well afford the premiums. He had made a note of
our earnings, or rather Kyle's earnings from his
uncle's business. A million dollar life insurance
policy on me was not out of the question. In fact,
he said, we could go much higher, and Kyle wanted
to. Kyle told me the rest would be "boring" and
said I could "go paint" while he finalized the
details. I signed a permission slip or something and
left the room. Kyle continued to transact with the
agent. I went to my study and thought about
unpacking the boxes but decided to smoke a joint
and sleep a little. The day was getting late.

Although I had never written those words in that


handwriting on that moldy page, the incident was
recorded exactly as it had happened about two
weeks previously. The agent had come, and Kyle
had taken out a huge life insurance policy on me
and one on himself because he knew I was going to
be pregnant soon, and, if anything ever happened
to me, he wanted sufficient funds as a precaution
to take care of the promised baby. It seemed
reasonable and prudent like everything Kyle did,
so I paid little attention.

Boldly and with resolve, I picked up the diary,


unlocked it again, and paged forward. My name
and Kyle's were interspersed throughout the
daily entries which followed. I read about how the
diary pulsated and grew ugly veins when I tried to
rip it open. I scanned the part concerning the
bubblegum wall and the key. I read about myself
today reading the diary. Then I pushed many
pages forward, always scanning with the intention
of carefully reading later. A woman named Sophia
from Bulgaria started popping up everywhere.
She was beautiful "more beautiful than I am,""I"
wrote. "I" hated her. She was always with Kyle,
helping with cookie matters of some sort. Sophia
suddenly became pregnant. I did not. More pages
forward. More scanning. I was sick every day
and the doctors (plural) could find no reason.
Kyle felt it came from my pot smoking habit, and
he wanted me to go to rehab. My pot smoking was
no more extreme that his had been, and I was not
a daily user. Kyle was making more of this
"habit" than it merited. He was doing it on
purpose. Sophia was visibly pregnant now. I felt
it was Kyle's child. Kyle had cheated on me with
Sophia. They had taken a company retreat
vacation together. They had been seeing each
other after work. Sophia was a chemist. A
Bulgarian chemist. That started to bother me.
But the writing was growing faint and hard to
read. I was sure that I was dying, and some
doctor confirmed it. I had a rare disease without
a name. I wrote that it must have been a
"Bulgarian disease." At last, I was too weak to
leave my bed. Kyle was gone all day and night.
Sophia had the baby. It was beautiful. Standing
before my eyes, dim in my diminished vision, Kyle
admitted to me that it was indeed his baby. The
baby's gender was never specified. Thus, it
remained an it. His and Sophia's it. I was dying.
I was too weak to protest. I was too weak to ask
whether Kyle's baby was a boy or a girl. I was too
frail to do anything but lie in bed and moan.

Then another passage that gripped my heart with


a steel fist:

I know now that Kyle and Sophia have been


poisoning me. I can't prove a thing. She must be a
gypsy of some sort. The doctors say I am just
withering away, disappearing like Emily Brogat did.
One said outright that I do not have long to live. I
am attached to a machine in my bedroom. They
didn't tell me what kind of machine it is, but only
that it keeps me alive. Kyle comes and goes.
Sophia is often at his side. All of Kyle's family is
sad for Kyle. They accept that Sophia is a comfort
to him. They accept that he has acknowledged his
child. I don't have long to go they say. We are
going to plan a funeral. My parents have been
here, each one of them separately, and they have
cried. That is all I can remember. I drift in and out
of consciousness. This will be my last entry, Dear
Diary, I have no more strength to write.

This was followed on the mildewed page by a final


comment in Emily's old handwriting, something I
had heard before.

"A falling star can crush a cow."

The pages which followed were blank.

Written so long ago, Emily had foretold my own


future in "my" own words. "Perhaps someday
you will be surprised to read it," she had said. I
remembered that in a gray burst of forgotten
memory.

XII. Conclusion

That night at dinner, I felt strangely recovered


from the shock and anguish of reading the diary
of Emily Brogat. The thought of the little stunted
classmate from so long ago and the idea that
somehow she had sent me a message from the past
had been assimilated into my character now and
made me stronger. It seemed all at once to me
that this would have been a natural thing for her
to do. It was mid-summer, and the late afternoon
sun was taking a long bow.

Uncharacteristically, I asked Kyle how his day


had gone before he got to ask me the same
question. Then I said, “We need to go at it again,
dude. I’m still not pregnant.” Kyle hated it when
I called him dude now. He was Mr. Cookie, and
he usually wore both his tie and jacket to the
dinner table to prove it. His jaw dropped slightly.
He seemed at a loss for words. My abruptly
jocular approach shook him, just as I had
intended it to. A bar of sudden sunlight breaking
through the tropical room window made his eyes
turn green and somewhat reptilian.

I pressed on, saying again with a certain boldness,


“Your job…how is it going? What’s new? I mean
in the cookie world.”

“Well,” he began slightly taken aback, “we’ve


hired a new chemist to revise the recipes….a
European…a Miss Prodanov. She seems very
talented.”

“Miss Prodanov. How interesting. What is her


first name?”

Kyle eyes widened, and he cocked his head


sideways as if to ascertain that it was still me.
“Her first name? I believe it is Sophia. Yes, in
fact, that is it. Sophia Prodanov. She is a
graduate of the University of Plovdiv…”

“In Bulgaria,” I asserted.

“I think so. Yes, Bulgaria. Bulgaria...yes,


Bulgaria.” Kyle was starting to stammer.

I stood up and took a pan off the stove and set it


down on the counter. Then, still standing, I eyed
Kyle sitting before his empty plates and beside his
stack of to-be examined accounts.

“Did you know,” I began, “that I went to school in


Darbymore, just a little south of here, about eight
miles away?”

“You’ve mentioned it,” Kyle said distracted. We


both grew up in the same county and never knew
one another.”

“When I went to school there was a girl that was


stunted from birth, and all the kids avoided her.
She spent the whole day at school writing in her
diary. She had a disease that made her bones get
smaller, and it was said she shrank a little each
day. We used to share the same locker. She was
tiny by that time, but still I made her use the top
shelf which she couldn’t reach easily. I was mean
back then. I didn't care. One day she
disappeared. All the kids said she shrank into a
tiny shell of a thing, like a peanut, and was thrown
out with the trash.”

“You were mean to her?” asked Kyle barely


interested. “Well, all kids are mean. Don’t worry
about it. You have a good life now. Think about
the family we are going to have. Maybe you’re not
getting pregnant because you’re not thinking
enough about it. The mind triggers the other
organs to do their thing, they say.”

“Yes, I was mean once,” I agreed solemnly. “I


regret it now. I owe that girl a lot.”

“Where’s dinner?” interrupted Kyle.


“I said I owed that girl a lot.”

“And I said where’s dinner?”

“Kyle", I continued, "we have two cars. The Saab


and the Hummer. Which do you like best?”

“The Saab said Kyle. The Hummer is too big.


Where’s dinner?”

“Around somewhere,” I continued. “You can look


for it in a minute.”

I walked into the alcove and took the Saab keys


from the rack where they hung. I already had a
packed suitcase in the front hall, something Kyle
had not noticed coming in through the patio. I
threw the suitcase in the Saab. By this time Kyle
was staring at me on the front landing.
Incredulity vaguely clouded his eyes. His mouth
was hanging open at a strange angle as I drove off.

I hit the interstate with no idea of whether I was


going east or west or north or south, and it didn’t
matter. In the suitcase next to me on the seat, was
Emily’s diary. In my jeans pocket was the yellow
key. There were blank pages yet to be filled, and I
knew that I would one day see them. Emily had
scribbled away right up until the day she
vanished. There would be a lot more to read. In
the fading sunlight, my last ever image of Kyle
was right where I wanted it: in the rearview
mirror of the car he liked best. And I was driving.
Away.

___________________________

Devon Pitlor, March 2009

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