“Play It Again, Sam” titled page ten, Page eight “Out of Africa” and Page two had “Last Tango in Paris”.
The faded ink nearly blended with the yellowed paper. Covered in worn soft leather, the book’s first and last pages were staining a pale golden brown. She had carved the word “PASSPORT” in the leather with a hot iron.
On each page, blurry, faint postmarks were stamped and drawn. No countries were listed, just one-liners and movie names printed at the top of each page.
The dates were old, way before she could remember. The mustiness of time had done its work. On the first page, a brown tinted photo affixed with glue captured the image of a young girl, the lips frozen in a smile.
I had delayed this job as long as possible. A sense of finality, loss of hopeful days swept over me.
The afternoon sun lazily glowed through the murky attic windows, dust particles danced in ethereal rays. Heated stuffy air lingered in the nose with hints of old, old, old.
Sitting back on my heels, I fingered the worn document. Why had she never thrown this away? It’s too late to ask, she’s on the other side.
Lena traveled all over the world. Amazing sights and stories were the normal conversation at home. She held her audience captive with sounds and smells of exotic places, weaving adventures together like a crazy quilt, organized chaos.
What an odd word…crazy.
A childhood made more mysterious. That’s all that is left.
Lena never went to any of these places, except in her mind. This book told of countless countries where she had imagined herself to be, longed to be anywhere but here.
Her mother’s parents were the incessant travelers. In and out of countries, safari here, escapade there, left no time for a child. Nannies, relatives and friends became parents for Lena. She was forgotten.
Lena had only postcards with markings, markings that were transcribed into the book I held in my hands. I heard once, that it’s possible to die of a broken heart long before your body dies. I never imagined how close to the truth that came.
Disgusted I turned from the box of memories. I felt like a Pandora, unable to resist knowing and now very sorry for the knowledge I had gained.
I gazed out the window but never saw the view. My eyes focused on what should have been; her childhood, teenage years and adulthood. Understanding arrived late, too late to salvage a life wasted away by “what ifs”.
As the end neared, Lena’s lucid thoughts were seldom. Her life became the shell she had tried to avoid.
She finally got her wish to travel. She’s seeing what none of us alive have ever glimpsed. I pray that she’s with Jesus but I won’t know for sure until I get there, too.
“The mind is a terrible thing to waste,” I’ve been told. I wish I could have known her mind rather than an illusion.
Her final entry in the passport said, “I’m off to Russia, with love, Lena.”
A name I’ve never uttered finally found freedom. “Mother,” I whispered, “We’ll burn this last.”
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