THURSDAY: Sonia’s Advice


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“EVERYBODY ROTS in the end. Even if your eyes are beautiful, your body handsome or fat, whether your face twitches while you’re sleeping, or you’re just a child. Every body in its own time rots in the end.”

That’s what Sonia said to me and then she fell asleep.

I tried to wake Sonia a few times on that rainy day in the camp, but it was in vain—she didn’t wake up. She lay there in the mud, and the drops of rain covered her, forming a lake around her body.

Sonia was the first dead body I engaged with. Afterward, there were many more. Yet, before Sonia became as dead as a body can be, I hardly knew her. She and I met an hour earlier in the grounds of the camp. I smiled at her, and Sonia gave me a cold look. I tried to help her walk the last few yards until she reached her destination. “Thank you,” she murmured quietly, and I smiled at her.

“You’re plump,” said Sonia, touching my thighs and I blushed. “It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing!” she added and immediately apologized.

I’ve never been thin, always plump—a 16-year-old girl from a good Jewish home in Warsaw. “We’ll have a match for you when your time comes.” Mother was always soothing. “Good thing we have a corset to hide what he’ll see only after the wedding,” she added and laughed a little. But it didn’t make me laugh. I always wanted to be thin like the rest of the girls in the class. Same as Rebecca Hendel and Sarah Lipka.

Yet it was Sonia, the one who lay there in the puddle of rain, I envied the most. As a matter of fact, I envied all the women in the camp. I envied their skinny bodies, the realization of the look I wanted so much only an hour ago. I envied them being alive with nothing left of their bodies to separate skin from bone.

When we were still in the city, before the Nazis came, I tried to stop eating. Every time for a few days. I allowed myself to believe that the body has a specific purpose, that if it doesn’t meet its use, the body must be punished.

But everybody has desires of their own, same as Mom or dad, and even the body of dead Sonia. All but mine, since it would first reduce its scope and then blow up to double its measure. “bad measure” I called it and gazed at the black smoke rising from the camp furnaces. Then I went back to thinking a little about Sonia’s last words and the advice she gave me.

“Plump,” I said, laughing a little, “but still breathing.”

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  1. The dry statistics of the holocaust are one thing. This brings it home.

  2. So much depth to this story. Girls starve themselves for the sake of what they believe will make them appealing, to the point of death, all too often. “Plump, but still breathing.”

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