A bullet I never knew I dodged


My diary, July 7, 1961 close-up


It seemed so straightforward: just sit down with old photos and papers I haven’t looked at in years. Sometimes it felt like I was staring at a stranger’s life; sometimes, something jogged my memory. And then I saw something I never saw before.

My third (not first, third) combing through my old diary brought startling evidence that a half-remembered nightmarish visit to Dagny’s brother’s summer house could easily have become something much worse. You mean the drunken rage scaring us awake and causing us to flee across a mountain lake in the middle of the night might actually have been a stroke of luck for me? Wow, who knew.

To make Axel’s remark legible, I had to futz around in Photoshop; on the original page, the pale pink scratches obscuring what he wrote were just as dark red and vivid as the red scratches over the hated “Unkle Aksel.” Boy, was I pissed at him for ruining the day’s page in my diary—how it all flooded back when I looked close enough.

At last, it occurred to me to squint through the angry red marks and try to decipher the old-fashioned handwriting. Safe to say I hadn’t looked in fifty years. And there was the bomb.

At the age of seven, I had limited perspective on why an old married guy who’d just met me for the first time would write “Do you love me Lauren” in my diary. Nor did I view his subsequent (and surprising, to Dagny) invitation as anything other than one more random event in a lifetime full of them.

At fifty-seven, though, you ask such questions and stub your toe on a long-buried land mine.