Wednesday, November 19

The Glory Days, He Thinks

THE PHOTOGRAPH WAS taken by his former wife. It sits in a faux aged wooden frame on his desk at work, in the open office, and sometimes, depending on the angle from which it is viewed, it is completely obscured by the reflection of the lights above. The photograph has no artistic value in the least, as family portraits seldom do, but there it stands, proud.
Because his former wife is taking the photograph, she is not in it, not in frame at all, nor reflected in any of the scene’s objects or moist eyes; this is precisely the reason he clings to it, precisely the reason why he does not think of her whenever he looks at it, which he is often inclined to do during moments of occupational despair, reverie, or complete despondency, etc.
The stand keeps the photograph at a steady angle of seventy-four degrees.
The photograph is of him and his three daughters; the youngest on the left, then he, the middle daughter and finally on the right the eldest. They are all aimed at the lens, smiling, with (fourth day) holiday tans. His youngest is ten in the photograph – forty-three – twelve – fourteen. Five years ago. They are all of them glowing.
That was five years ago.
The glory days, he thinks.
That was when he was happiest and the wife is not in the photograph but, by refracted light, they are all smiling at her, where she smiles back and chooses to capture it at a divined moment.
The restaurant they sit in is dark but for the flash – popping and whirring and all the nearby patrons turning round briefly – illuminating half-empty cocktails, and non-alcoholic cocktails, a coke, the scraped plates; a few white lines of the moon on the sea in the background, shoulders of strangers, colourful clothes exposing colourful skin. He has his arms wrapped around them, pulling them close and they do not shy away but nestle against one another up to him, carriages of a train, linked strongly and butting-butting, rocking peacefully.
And that is the photograph and it was taken in innocence and he received it as a Christmas gift that year from his youngest. It occupied a considered surface in their house (the hall table, a thoroughfare for guests who would often compliment the portrait – though it was of no artistic value – and it was all that rested on the hall table besides a small tiffany lamp, a notepad and pen, and the family telephone that was often missing only to be found in one room or another, never in its rightful place). He moved out two nights after mentioning the divorce and upon his next visit he noticed that the photograph and frame had been removed. He enquired as to its absence and took it with him. At first he had not truly valued it – other than the gesture from his daughter – but now it was making up for lost time.
It sat on his desk at work, where he spent most of his time and where most of his life and efforts went.
If he thought back, that was when he was last happy; when all seemed right and good; when one is forgetful of all the bad times as though they didn’t happen and subconsciously wondering when the good times will end. There were other photographs he could have chosen to keep him company, many others were taken prior to that and many after, many of just him and his daughters, but that photograph, the place it had had in his life and the time it was taken, were treasured above all others. Even his wedding photographs, mementos of what he once considered the happiest day of his life, had rotted. No, there was just that photograph and all else was silence.
He did not see the photographer when he glanced at the photograph, but just he and his children doing all right in the world.
It was fifteen twenty-two when he sat down at his desk after a meeting had gone on for far too long. He slouched and saw the photograph and did not recognise himself. Then he did, and he stirred his computer out of sleep.

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