There’s something about small dark places that comfort me. Maybe it subconsciously reminds me of the womb, or the space beneath my bunk bed where I went when I was a little kid. I remember sliding underneath my bunk bed; my small skinny fingers gripping the brown wood that was about the same color as my skin, in order to slide, feet first, into that comforting darkness. It wasn’t so much a hiding place, as a place to get away, because everyone knew where I was, as they would often say “Go get her from under the bed.” The bed that I often laid underneath was shared by me and my sister, and the top bunk was inhabited by my other sister. In total, five girls shared that room, all of which were many years older than me, and at the time I didn’t see anything wrong with that.
I couldn’t turn over on my sides; there was only enough room to lay flat on my back or flat on my stomach. Since two sides of the bed were pushed flush into a corner, there only remained two other sides that were open. The longer side was lined with my sister’s shoeboxes that she anally kept in a straight line, and the shorter side was how I got in and out of my not-so-secret hiding place. I spent a lot of time staring at the dusty underneath of our wooden bed, mentally counting down the years in which I would be as old as my sisters so that I could move out. Usually I would slide underneath there when my father came home, in order to hide from the yelling and the cursing. He would come home and unload everything—all of his anger from the shortcomings that he was faced with in his life—on the frail backs of his children. Afterwards, mentally bruised and beaten, my older sisters would come back into our room and vent to one another, and speak in hushed tones of making it out of the house to a better life. And as I would lie there, my hands linked lying on my stomach, I quieted the urge to ask them to vent to me, to let me understand. They seemed to me at the time as an entity, My Sisters, all the same and all-wise and knowing. I didn’t know them individually, and I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t tell me things, because I would most definitely understand.
The day that I finally felt that I could get closer to my sisters was when I found one of their diaries. It was small, green, and fuzzy, and every aspect of it attracted me to it. It was hidden in one of the shoe boxes that my sister, Stacey, kept in a straight line.
Holding the small fuzzy book in my hands I was filled with a type of adrenaline that has yet to be matched to this day. I fingered the small lock and sat there in a dazed bout of concentration, trying to figure out how exactly I was going to open this secret piece of my sister. I put down the diary, hiding it beneath a blanket, and slid from under the bed. Walking as stealthily as an eight year old possibly could, I looked for a pair of scissors whose sharp edge could turn the lock of the diary. I walked past my oldest sister, Cheryl, in the living room, and jumped when she called my name out.
“Huh?” I said spinning around on the spot to face her.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing, I need scissors.”
“There’s some in the top drawer in the kitchen,” she said, turning her attention back to the television.
“Okay,” I said slightly exhaling, turning around to continue my mission.
“What are you up to little sister?” She asked with mock suspicion.
“Nothing, why do you always—I’m not doing anything,” I stuttered as I speedily walked away, making a bee-line for the kitchen.
While looking through the kitchen drawers for the scissors, I couldn’t keep my mind off of the small fuzzy book of secrets that lay under the bed, hidden beneath the blankets. I didn’t know what it was that I was going to be reading in this book, but all I knew is that this was a way to somehow be closer to them; closer to my sisters. But as my hand wrapped around the cold metal of the scissors, I had a flash of remorse; what would happen if she found out that I was going to read her diary? She won’t, answered a voice, and I clenched the scissors a little tighter in my hands.
Back underneath the bed, I went to work on the diary lock, which was much easier to open than I thought. I placed the scissors beside me, and opened the diary. In curvy writing she whispered to me all the secrets that she dared not even say out loud, and I took them all and hid them someplace deep inside me. I read about moments of passion and pride, of depression and mediocrity, about days that passed by with no event, and about days that were so eventful she rushed, her handwriting getting cramped, in order to fit it all on the pages. Some days played out like soap operas, with such condensed storylines I would have to go back and reread it. This was not the sister that I saw float around the house in a puff of indifference, this sister had spunk and something more to her that I had only witnessed in fleeting moments through life. I would go back to that diary, week after week, in order to find out more about my sister. I would recognize slight differences in her behavior and know that there was something to be written about. I kept the scissors under the bed, in order to expedite the process of getting her diary open, and even came up with a semi-schedule of when to make my move; Tuesdays and Wednesday when she stayed an extra two hours for dance practice, and Saturday mornings when she had SAT prep classes.
I had gotten comfortable with this information being available for me and a little sloppy as well. I had made the mistake of falling asleep while I was under the bed, with her diary lying conspicuously on my chest. I don’t know how many hours I had been under there but, but when I woke up the little fuzzy book of secrets was gone. In drowsy movements I felt around on my stomach for the diary, then a little more alert I felt around on my sides hoping that it simply fell off while I was asleep, but when that returned nothing I panicked. And in my haste to locate the diary I sat up straight, momentarily forgetting where I was, and my forehead crashed against one of the wooden support planks that ran underneath the bed. I sat there for a while, rubbing my head, close to tears; less about the bruise forming on my face and more about what would happen if my worst fears had been confirmed—Stacey found that I had been reading her diary. I scrambled around under the bed, helplessly searching for the diary, even searching in the shoebox that she usually hid it in, but nothing was there. I resigned to coming out from under the bed, maybe I wouldn’t have to face her until much later, and she may forget all about it. Gripping the edge of the bed to stable myself, I slid from out of my dark hiding place and into the light of my room.
I still remember the sting of my eyes adjusting, and not being able to see my sister as she said in a cold voice, “You were making a lot of noise under there. What were you doing? Looking for my diary again?” She sat upright on her side of the bed, her face stony and red around her nose and eyes from what looked to be crying. I stood there in what must have been a pathetic stance, and shrugged my shoulders. I wanted that shrug to tell her that I was sorry, and that I only did it to be closer to her. I wanted her to know that I wouldn’t tell anyone what I read in that diary, that it would stay imprinted on me, just like the words on those pages. But all she saw was a shrug of indifference as I crossed the room to my dresser to look for an imaginary something. I felt her eyes tear into me as I tried to ignore her, and felt her pure hatred for me at that moment in time.
“What all did you read?” She asked me through clenched teeth.
“Nothing really,” I lied, “just going to school, dance practice, candy selling, nothing major,” I tried to say nonchalantly, to perhaps ease her anxiety of me finding out something more than mundane activities.
The room was absolutely still save my hands pushing and shoving things aside in my drawer. After a while I heard a deep exhalation behind me, and a shallow intake of breath.
“Why?” she asked shakily, her head now hanging low, her chin nearly touching her chest, “Why would you do this?” She looked up at me and I felt a little piece of myself crumple on the inside, the piece that had convinced me that it was okay to read her diary and that she wouldn’t find out; the piece that rationalized my actions as a plight to know her better instead of just my own selfish motives.
“I don’t know,” I said lamely, unable to think of an excuse worthy enough to give her.
They ostracized me, but honestly it was justifiable. My Sisters seemed to form a unit again to collectively shun me. I wasn’t punished by my parents because they couldn’t see why reading her diary had been such a major violation of trust and privacy, maybe believing that Stacey’s life was no more interesting than their own.