Snapshots

I can't tell whether my father is dead or just resting in the pictures Jerry took in lieu of last rites. My mother looks worried, exposed by the flash, my father's oxygen tent glinting, a spider web jeweled with dew, her eyes on something else, pocketbook gaping, unlit cigarette dangling from her mouth. Her eyebrows took on a nasty slant when she was looking for a light, the way I must look when late at night I'm hunting for the mosquito whose buzzing keeps me awake. I'm in those pictures, too, buried deep in the uterine lining of her womb, though she wouldn't know about me until just after my father's death. Eva would consider this unexpected pregnancy a burden greater than grief.

Jerry's pictures were more technical than expressive, whether still-lifes of jewelry boxes or family Easter portraits the mood was the same, the light harsh and revealing, perfectly adjusted to expose the details the naked eye might be forgiving enough to miss.

Jerry took many pictures of my mother. She only ever looked comfortable holding a cigarette, balancing it between her fingers, eyes wide waiting for a light, inhaling, exhaling, right up through snubbing it out with a thoughtful expression, the last of that cigarette's smoke wafting from her nostrils, obscuring her face. Holding a cigarette she'd forget he was aiming a camera at her, exhibited that strange dignified air common to photos of the insane.

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