Between the Portrait and the Window: The Mysterious Femme Fatale

I spent a good deal of my youth at the cemetery, and while most of what I saw there remained far removed from the everyday concerns of my childish mind, there was one grave that was always noticed and never really forgotten.

Just past the entrance gates on the right side of the road, there stood a mausoleum with a small window on its front. A glowing woman, softened with the wispy air of the early 1900s, would stare from behind the window as you passed by. Her portrait had been painted onto another window at the back, and the mausoleum was positioned in such a way to ensure her face caught the daylight.

As a child I used to imagine a grief-stricken lover had built her the edifice, sometimes young and forever altered, sometimes old and filled with decades of love and memories. Now as I imagine more possibilities, I think she could have also been the beloved child of doting parents mourning a dying hope, or a crotchety old lady who wanted to haunt forever the passerby. I have never decided which story I like best.

Even in those early days I’d always wanted to inspect that grave more closely, to see what else could be seen inside the tiny room between the portrait and the window; to check the dates and see if she had indeed died young or if someone had been nostalgic. Since the last I never did manage to visit the grave or even learn a name. It wasn’t close enough to our more frequently visited locations to allow for an innocent wandering, and I wasn’t passionately curious enough about it to request a dedicated trip.

And so still she smiles from behind her window as an unanswered memory, along with the floating dust of my grandmother’s porch and other scenes of a bygone time I somehow lived but to which I never actually belonged. Focused mostly on the future, I haven’t thought of her much in quite a while; but as the world recedes into its own tiny room in the midst of COVID-19 fears, she has again smiled through the window, leaving me to wonder if the world, in what appears to be a similar predicament, is also smiling, inviting the same sort of story-filled wonder from innocent passerby.