All of the people in these pictures are dead now
Here’s a picture of Janice Baker sitting on a wooden bench at the park holding her exposed left breast. This might be my favorite picture. I’ve looked at it so many times. Janice won’t care that I’m showing you this, at least not in this realm because she’s dead. Her parents won’t care either because they’re also dead. Janice was my first real girlfriend and she was wild and when I was fifteen she did things to me that I never thought could be done between man and woman. I loved the heck right out of her. Now, because she was a first love and we were fifteen and I didn’t know a thing about women, I shit the bed on the whole relating part of the relationship. Janice left me for a guy named Mark who was an actor in a local commercial and who had dreams to be a real big-time film actor and who was tall and muscular and had a beard. He looked like a cross between a young Brando and a young Frederik Engles. Fuck Mark and his beard and the fact that he saw and touched and kissed a lot more of this breast here than I ever did. Janice Baker and I both grew up and apart and then one day I heard she’d gone off to get married on some Caribbean island. Her whole family: mother, father, brothers and new husband were found bobbing in the water after some failed catamaran voyage. It was a freak storm, I think. Janice’s skin was apparently the color of elephant. Mark and I both went to the funeral. He cried like an actor up in the front pew.
Here’s a picture of Blaise, a lilac point Balinese kitty. He was cute here. He was a cute kitty and I named him Blaise because I was reading Pensées when I found him. That cat was evil and everybody thought so. Even my Grandmother, Dotty, who loved every creature thought that cat was some kind of demon. It was my fault we had Blaise because I saw him hiding under our car one day and he was all wet and cold and his eyes were the saddest little blue eyes ever. We brought him in the house and cleaned him up and I named him and after that my parents couldn’t say to put him back outside. And the first night Blaise hissed and hissed and made this godawful meow that you couldn’t sleep over. The caterwaul was endless. Blaise brought the entire family down. My father was demoted at work due to lack of sleep. My mother’s meals came out blander. My marks in school dropped nearly ten percent. We talked less. If you tried to pet Blaise or touch him he would hiss at you and if you got close enough he would scratch at your hand with his terrible mucous-colored claws. This kind of stuff went on for years. Why didn’t we get rid of the kitty? I don’t know. Maybe we were just plain-old afraid. But Blaise’s end did come. One night my father said he woke up from a rare bout of sleep and there was Blaise, eyes alive and towering overhead. The cat (according to mother) took one swipe at my father and put a gash right through his eyelid. I remember hearing my father scream and then the quick thuds and thumps of the cat running through the house. I saw the cat run by my room followed by my father (who was holding a hand to his eye as he ran). Terrible sounds came from downstairs. Terrible cat-in-pain sounds. I never saw Blaise again. We didn’t speak about it and I never asked. The patch over my dad’s left eye was enough for us all.
Here’s a picture of my dad.
Here’s a picture of Herbert Tevins my Linguistics professor at university. Tevins wore the same gray tweed suit to every lecture. He wore the same black t-shirt underneath. He stank and you could smell him no matter where you sat. He drank from the same little tin cup every class. He had a bald head and a beard of mixed whites and blacks. He spoke with authenticity on Wittgenstein, Carnap and Chomsky but he was at heart a true believer in most Chunking theories of acquisition. His pedagogy was often abstract. He would say things like “If Jesus was an extra-terrestrial we would have developed interstellar travel by now,” or, “An annoying noise annoys most oysters.” These things would come seemingly out of context. I had him late into his career. One day Tevins walked in wearing a shirt the exact icterine color of the paint on the walls of the lecture hall. He said nothing of it. Another time he rolled in the portable television-VCR and played a video he recorded of his wife leaving him. Here he was walking around with a home video camera shooting her as she screamed. She was throwing things and pulling things out of closets. He followed her as she dragged a suitcase down the stairs and outside. She kept shoving him and trying to pry away camera but he fought her off and said nothing the whole time. He pressed stop when she drove off in their minivan. Tevins turned to the class. “Authenticity is everything, children.” He had bypass surgery after retiring and tried to walk home five days post-surgery. His heart exploded while turning the key to his front door.
Here’s a picture (in sepia) of Ronnie, my Jack Russell terrier. He could catch a ball the day he was born. I left the door open on the way to the bus one day. He chased me outside and tried to catch me at the bus stop across the street.
Here’s a picture of you. I think you were in my dad’s old paddle boat on the Mahone Bay. I was standing on the dock. Let’s divide the photo into four sections. The upper left section is just water. You can see it was a bright day right off the top of the ocean. The water seems to shimmer even in the photo. In the bottom left section I can see the tip of your leg hanging over the side of the boat. Your big toe is drifting in the water. You painted it green. I can remember you sitting on the dock giving yourself a pedicure and then coating each toenail in that green. You said something about fish being attracted to that particular shade. You said you wanted a fish to kiss your toes. I told you I would kiss your toes. I think I kissed them that night. I think I kissed a lot of things on that trip to the shore. The bottom left of the photo is gone, cut away in one ornery scoop by the fire. The lower half of your body is gone, turned to a near weightless ash. The top left of the photo holds your face. It is the only reason I keep this scorched picture around. It brings you alive in a way no other photo does. Look at your eyes. You were looking right at me as I snapped the photo. You are perfect and clean and floating. Everything was clean about us. Everything was perfect until you burned away. Look at your perfect eyes.
Here’s a picture of me. I’m lying on my back in a field, the same field I’m lying in right now. In the picture there’s grass with little yellow spearworts here and there. It’s a sunny day. I’m smiling in the picture. I look younger and thinner. I’m all alone, just like I am today. Today it’s wintery. Today there’s snow on the ground and the sun is dipping and I don’t have a camera. It doesn’t matter. This moment need not be captured. All the really important stuff happens in absence of cameras. All the little real moments. Let’s see how long I can stay here in the cold. Let’s see what animals come to pick me apart and carry me away.