{ Dear Kitty }
by Zoje Stage
illustration by Craig Mrusek

dear kitty - craig mrusekI am the child of Anne Frank.
   My mother died during a war. She fought many battles, but her gun had no bullets. She wore a wool cap that stank of rain. I don't know much about her friends. I know nothing about her friends.
   Conjecture: Mummy cried when she felt lonely.

She liked movie stars.
   Conjecture: Her head was filled with images of herself in ball-gowns. She sipped from goblets with long stems. Perhaps she even wore a tiara. It seems very likely that, given the opportunity, she would be very much like Audrey Hepburn.

She read a lot of books. No one yelled at her while she read. Books were a place to go. Words were transportation. She liked love stories, but preferred them against a backdrop of Bubonic Plague.
   Conjecture: She mouthed the words as she read, out of love.

Her mother was often sick, or complaining of pains. To which her daughter could only roll her eyes. Hypochondriac. Munchausen Syndrome. Out-bleeding and out-vomiting the neighbors.
   Conjecture: Certain diseases of the daughter might become invisible.

Mummy liked to dress well. She cared about her clothing and hair. Her shoe fetish went unrequited. She wore the fashions of the times, and was skinny before it was fashionable.
   Conjecture: See above (Audrey Hepburn). She longed for a pearl choker.

She hated school. She loved school after it was taken away.
   Conjecture: She was too smart for her own good. Writing cursive never suited her, yet she was never taught to print. Her handwriting looks familiar, like it was copied and not invented. It was a future goal to design an encrypted code that looked like sonnets, which she alone knew to decipher as the Unimaginable Truth.

She loved boys when they flattered her. She wasn't afraid of sex.
   Conjecture: She dreamt more than anything of being held. Embraced in arms when she was afraid, when she was joyful. Tight embraces with restorative powers. A man's chest, and his heart beating just for her.

She felt confined. Her straitjacket was the size of the world; its perimeters held her in. There was nothing to look at and everything to see. She contained fear the way nesting dolls contain other dolls. The innermost fear, though small, was tight and solid like a nut.
   Conjecture: Mummy might rattle when shook.

She could laugh louder than anyone. Firecrackers falter against the backdrop of her laughter. She could be frightfully unsubtle, like a five-year-old amused by someone else's fart.
   Conjecture: All's right with the world. Or, she dreamed of square, white, even teeth and ruby lipstick like a pinup girl. She wanted to hang on people's walls, to keep an eye on them. To be looked at.

Prison O prison O prison. Who held the key? What lay on the other side of the door? Mummy could hear the things in the walls, the many-legged things that festered and flourished and consumed them all.
   Conjecture: It was difficult to be optimistic.

Sibling rivalry was a waste of time, because the elder had already mastered perfection. They did no wrong, while she did no right. Her future was uncertain. She didn't have the same advantages. Her skills were hard to pinpoint. Her talents, oblique.
   Conjecture: She was prone to being misunderstood, no matter how clearly she stated the obvious.

Mummy wanted to be an actress. She was confident, then. Exuberant, even. The casting people came to town, in search of a special girl, for a special movie: Anne Frank. They could have been twins. Identical. Hair, eyes, bony knees. Hollywood said no. She was too ethnic. Anne Frank was played by someone with a perkier nose and less soulful eyes.
   Conjecture: Mummy wondered what was wrong with her. She went into seclusion.

She wrote a secret diary. About Daddies who take bribes and threaten their daughters with mental hospitals. About brothers who get advanced degrees and become lawyers, rich but unhappy. About husbands who miss their boyhoods but never cry, clogged and mute like a moth in a metal box. About children she cannot comfort. About friends who die of cancer, leaving her with no one to talk to. About mothers who go blind.
   Conjecture: It exists. Someone would want to make a movie about her. She will be remembered.

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