by Maeve Reed
Maeve Reed is a writer from Warsaw,
Even with the sun gaping through freshly made gaps in the roof, charred
walls darkened the room. A shadow moved across the floor; a graceful
ghost. I jumped and looked up—a bird, just a bird. The smell of
smoke permeated my clothing and my surroundings. This had been my
home and now it was ashes.
A silver glint peeked out from under a sooty skeleton that used to be
my couch. I reached out for it—a picture frame. I withdrew my
hand, shaking. Nothing could have survived. Crawling over a fallen
beam, I moved closer to the frame. Glass lay shattered within the
frame—tiny shards like black diamonds. The figure in the picture
—badly burned and warped with water damage. My arms wrapped
around my body and rocked me gently. The floor creaking to the rhythm
of my movements, it sang of the grief my heart refused to speak. When
the opus finished, the sun was no longer overhead.
The numbness I'd felt the night before when the firemen
fought to tame the blaze melted from me. I missed the numbness.
This had been the only picture of him. Kept buried under
a cushion and him buried even deeper in my mind. My finger brushed
against a piece of paper clinging to the back of the frame. It read
"P. Davidson — 1995." All this clutter and that little piece of
paper survived. Using my sweat shirt, I dusted and dabbed at the
picture. I could barely make out a man, let alone a face. I could
remember his hazel eyes and the way his curly chestnut hair hung
loosely around his face. But the lines and curves of his skin and body
were fading. Amazing how his image faded from memory, but not his
touch—feather soft, not rough like you would think—I'd never forget. A widow at twenty-eight-such was life.
Paul had no family, only me.
Cradled in the ashes, I saw something flutter
peripherally past. I wiped my hand across my eyes. A monarch butterfly
shivered for a moment then folded wing to lie very still in my lap.
It would not fly again. It had moved on. Life had a funny way of doing
I looked at the picture. The way he stood in
front of his motorcycle posed in a tough guy sort of way. It was
special, because I knew it was just a pose. He wasn't smiling, but I
had been when I snapped the shot. He hadn't wanted me to take the
picture—said it was "bad karma." He told me he'd spent his life
avoiding photos. But I had wanted to immortalize him. No one lives
forever. He proved that. And now with the only picture damaged beyond
recognition and four years passed. I stroked the blurred image.
I could almost hear Paul saying, "It's better
this way. I never wanted the damn picture any ways." But it was hard
to let go.
He'd looked so handsome. The only real proof that
I had a husband-I'd had a husband. I had been so excited. I went right
out to buy the perfect frame. It wasn't the frame that was perfect
though, Paul would have looked good in any setting. I had typed his
name on a slip of paper, along with the year of the photo. I wanted
to show it to our children when they were older. We didn't have time
for children, and now, only I was getting older.
I peeled the paper label off the back and put it
in my purse. I left the framed mess.
The picture reminded me that nothing is mine to
keep. People and items are temporary. Forcing one foot to move in front
of the other, I walked away, hugging the purse to my body.
Copyright © 2005. Do not reproduce without permission.