by Leyla Ertegun


One day I started going to the movies. It was a Wednesday and I had worked all day but there was a movie I had in mind to see and I went to see it alone and this accomplishment for me—not going to the movies alone, but making a decision that involved the outside world and carrying it out—made it possible for me to go to a dinner afterwards, and soon another movie on my own again, and one with my brother, and then I accepted an escape with a man into a series of pictures as he called them, after which I left him to go to a film festival with my brother.

Then the movies stopped and something else began between the three of us.

If the movie had been that the woman had really killed her son—not killed him to save him from death—the woman would have had a truer reason to be so silent, so erased. But as it stands, her only reason, not as true and not as interesting, was to torture herself and those around her with her impenetrability and, as it turned out, a misleading sense of the magnitude of her secret.

It was, nevertheless, an enjoyable torture, which had as much to do with her acting as with the graceful features of her face.

If a woman were to really kill her son, would there be more people who would ask why than would not want to know?

And then there would be those who would ask something else entirely, something that as the movie played I asked, before I found out that the woman had not really killed her son: why not.

I did not know that Wednesday would mark the beginning of something, a conversation, an entrance into myself by distillation of character. That’s what this film felt like: the woman who had not really killed her son had invaded me. And her revulsion to even those closest to her.

After the film I sat in a warm place while I debated whether or not to go to a dinner I was invited to. I felt strong because I felt I had this character’s strength, so I went into the world of my friends so foreign to me hoping to revile them a little. I offered them the frozen face she had offered me for two hours. I may or may not have created some effect, some questioning in their minds. What mattered was that I had gone to bring myself closer to that character, because to be her I needed an audience. By trying to be her, I was left with a sense of strength at the end of the dinner, strength that you can show up at someone’s birthday, have a secret, and not hide it—hide yourself behind it—entirely.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Leyla Ertegun is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, where she was fiction editor of Columbia: A Journal of Art and Literature. She lives in New York City.

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