Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
The Other Side Of Time (excerpt)
by Stephanie Stigers
Back in the hospital to which I have dutifully returned, I manage to open my eyes and see: a little doll with a porcelain face and tiny pointe shoes painted on her porcelain ankles hanging above me, suspended from some of the apparatuses that surround my bed.
I remember seeing that doll sometime last week, just before...just before..just before what? I can't remember.
The little doll with her porcelain face and tiny pointe shoes painted on her porcelain ankles has hung above my bed for all the time here that I can remember. There must have been a time when the doll wasn't there, but my memories are inextricably bound up with the figure of the miniature ballerina in her romantic tulle skirt over maroon pantaloons, with a maroon bodice with long puffed sleeves gathered around minute wrists of porcelain hands that hold a tiny satin rose.
She has swung there above the bed through the days and nights that I have wandered in and out of consciousness, and the doll has sometimes become the centerpiece of a dream or a hallucination, or a vision, hanging there in suspended time with her dreamy look of sylphide nights, or forests, or convents in which a young girl was imprisoned.
The doll never changes her expression or goes limp, her face always softly turned toward some sound that no one else can hear, the toes eternally pointed, the arms softly curved toward the rose.
Once she had swung in a chapel with an oval curve carved in the ceiling above her, on a Sunday which was perpetual, and I watched and watched through the long curved time, with the inscribed moments of a nether world whirling without sound or substance through some eternal suspension that only the tiny ballerina and I can intuit.
Somewhere over at the side of the bed, another woman sits watching, perhaps knitting, her pale, opalescent flaxen hair framing a face almost perfect in its feminine linearity-except for the lines running from either side of her nose to the twin edges of her slightly pouting mouth-and as she sits perpetually knitting, perpetually pouting, she seems to be knitting herself, as I watch, creating herself all over again out of wool, from her dark blue sweater to her long, drooping swan's neck to the shining flaxen hair.
And then the whole picture reverses, and, for a moment, the woman sitting beside the bed in the eternal chapel becomes flesh and blood again.
Between the two of us there is no verbal exchange, and once I waited for the flaxen-haired woman to go to sleep so that I might take the frost from off the window at the front of the chapel while the lady slept. It was the frost of a December night of long ago, etched forever in memory; and the frost became a crystal etching that I was fashioning into a fleur-de-lis of some sort, making of that December frost a memory that I could always carry, or perhaps lay carefully aside for another to hold.
And then, the woman with the flaxen hair and dark blue sweater was preparing me for a long journey: the two of us were to board an airplane on a flight to some distant destination.
I will always remember it-the slight fear, the difficulty boarding, the fastening of seatbelts. The unseen pilot as the engine begins to warm.
But where can we go in this silent night (silent except for the revving engine)? What wings will carry us, and how long the flight?
I'm slightly nervous, somewhat at a disadvantage, because I haven't been able to board alone, and I miss the silent chapel with the oval on the ceiling and the objects of memory I have been making.
Why doesn't anyone speak? Where are the other passengers?"
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