“Listen,” he said, and we huddled in the back seat of a station wagon, poised for words that did not come. Came instead, drops of water on the rooftop, a susurration of intent, a grasping at conveyance of a thought as big as rain.
What did he mean to tell us with his silence in that storm?
I hear maracas filled with sharp shards and monsoons microphoned. The wind sounds like brakes skidding, like glass breaking and accidents happening.
But that’s not what he meant.
They say that a car is the safest place to be in a storm. But I’ve seen pictures, trunk metal twisted like a slinky and cotton candy upholstery in a baby’s car seat cone.
But that’s not what he meant.
I think he thought that it was beautiful because we finally heard him say, “Do you hear the music of the rain?”
He left before I could answer. Left me with one windshield wiper for the storm that was to come, one windshield wiper and no seat belt.
You tried to give us pretty, perfectly framed snapshots of him. You showed him at the beach laughing, his laugh so big it filled the picture, his laugh so big, I could almost feel it where my finger touched his glossy-finish chest.
In another, he was at the kitchen table carving a centerpiece turkey on one of those generic family occasions. I was always hungry for, wished on every wishbone for, him.
How smart he was, you said. He’d kissed the blarney stone. And handsome, I could see that for myself in the flash you popped for him. But still, he left and I was only three and I didn’t know that there wouldn’t be any more “Kodak Moments” for the other kids and me.
Mom, you didn’t have to sepia tone those pictures, delicately tint them for me. I would have loved him, I would have loved him anyway.
He came to me as I lay sleeping, a gift from my dreaming mind –straight to the phantom limb of my childhood.
He did nothing more than sit in a chair. But how that chair preened to have him sitting in it. The carpet wore his feet in ostentatious display.
I stood by his side and his arms, sprinkled lightly with freckles and reddish blonde hair, wrapped around me like a blanket. I pillowed my head on his chest, another dream remembered from which he rescued me with a father’s store bought milk.
Thirty years have come and haven’t changed that he is gone. How flat the dearest face is delineated in photo graph. Something inside us renders truer if more primitive.
Look. The red crayon made spirals for his hair but went off the page trying to draw his heart. A ghost arm that can feel pain takes up the crayon again.
Development and Epilogue
And so what is the point of this story of a daughter as camera and her father as subject? In losing its subject the camera lost focus and stared blankly at the world. The camera kept clicking away but with no reference point its frames were empty of meaning.
It’s also about how the camera somehow got more film and a new angle. How did it happen? Did the subject step outside the frame to be an unseen hand, directing, in the final resolution? Or did the pictures keep dropping from the camera’s fingers like leaves drop from a tree?
Glossy camera leaves filled with the color green they become rich with gold, purple, and red. Finally they wither, are not even crisply black and white but are brown end of autumn leaves. And they crumble, become the detritus for new pigments on photos if not for this particular camera/tree then for the next.
Maybe this story’s point is to just be ready for more film while your leaf pictures fall and litter the ground with the rustle of what could have been, the crunch of what will be.
Previously published in Conspire Magazine and Triplopia Magazine.