Since before we moved houses, that old Polaroid has been sitting there, beside my mother’s bed, for as long as I can remember. I try not to look at it when I walk into her room, the walls yellow with cigarette smoke. And even after she has shown it to me, I can never seem to remember his face.
It’s blurred out, my father’s face, censored as if he had never signed the consent to release form. A waiver, which we have to assume, was completely ignored, as my father wanted to keep his identity a mystery. This mystery, one that I was completely disinterested in ever attempting to solve, was one whose answers were not arrived at through the juvenile games of “Guess Who” that were played at the tables of the bargain-basement daycare with the mean kids that played street hockey.
But I know it is not my memory that’s failed me. Because I remember in vivid remark that day, the last time that I saw my father, in the barbershop parking lot. I recall with grave distinction the look on his face before he dragged my mother out of the car by her hair, pounding her jaw against the hood of the white Ford Explorer. I remember when the ambulance came, and the beautiful EMT worker told me that my mother just had “a little booboo, like that one,” as she pointed to a mark on my arm that was, distinctly, not a booboo. I’ve been told that I couldn’t look at my mother for months, scarred, stitched, and flattened into an oblong disfigurement. My heart, like her jaw, was completely broken. And I could never look at my father again.
So, I censor it in my mind, like the breasts of a woman on a made-for-television movie, because it does not belong there. And after fifteen years, when my mother asks me where that old Polaroid that’s been sitting beside her bed since before we moved houses has gone, I tell her that I do not know.
Cameron Green is currently pursuing his M.A. in English at East Carolina University. He has work forthcoming in WILDNESS Journal, The B'K Magazine, and Badlands Literary Journal. Recently, he received the 2016 Bill Hallberg award in Creative Writing.
The executive headquarters of Deities Limited, as far as science goes, doesn’t exist. It has no discernible mass or energy and doesn’t interact with anything, so, to our less-than-perfect powers of observation, it’s not there. At least, not in any “there” we can perceive. The only way to imagine it, even though its physical nature is nothing like this, is to picture a quadrillion-story office building.
Linda always got the aisle seat. She liked having easy access to the bathroom and to the flight attendants.
Frank always took the window seat. He liked not talking to anyone and watching the world go on below as if he weren’t a part of it.
Herbert and Marilyn walked into the newest diner in town, The Brown Bag. A yellow GRAND OPENING banner hung the length of the wall behind the hostess stand and a greasy smell of overdone French fries lingered in the air. Herbert trudged to the front and put his name on the list. The hostess said it would be a few minutes. He headed back to the door and plopped down on a bench next to Marilyn.
At 18,000 miles, when my hair was still blondish, Dad flung me the keys to the ’53 DeSoto Powermaster. It was a voluptuous sedan, with a heavy chrome grille, painted in a deep red color that Dad called “Sophia Loren’s lipstick.” I was fifteen. It was a Sunday, and we were still wearing our suits from church. I didn’t know why he’d done it since the car was only a few years old, but it was my first ride, and I worked that beast all over Peoria—up and down the same streets—counting how many green lights I could rush through without finding a red one.
It was snowing out that night. The wind whipped through the crisp air, stirring the movements of the car. He drove at speeds over seventy miles per hour. He didn't care. He had been crying. He was working on his book again for the first time in months. The one about her. He kept erasing lines and starting over, never understanding why he chose to suffer.
Racial. Barrier. Falls.
The words like a meditative mantra for Violet, a promise renewed in each breath, deep and expanding, as strong and sure and filled with hope as the sweet smell of autumn in New York. It was November 4, 2008. The news—world-historical news—flashed across every television-computer-cell phone-smartphone-website-newsstand all over the country, all over the world, each headline a slightly varied version of the one she liked most, the one from her very own hometown paper, the good ol’ New York Times, which ran the banner: “Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls.”
“Are you willing to accept spiritual warfare?”
“And finally, death?”
The heat from the stove had warmed the small kitchen from inviting through cosy to where it sat now at uncomfortable. Abyan knew it wouldn’t be long before it became unbearable, but she had to finish all of the cooking before then anyway; their guests would arrive somewhere between uncomfortable and plain hot so the kitchen would be left to its final stages of heating up and cooling down again without her. She would be in the lounge room serving light refreshments of sambuus while Ramaas poured the hot, spiced tea by then. Her nerves made her impatient and she resisted the pointless urge to remove the lid from the cubed chicken and prod it into cooking faster.
Boys, this is what I have wanted to say, what I want to say, all I can say about my folks. It will have to do. You connect the dots. I don't want to or don't know how.
The boy climbed the steps two at a time, emerged into the blinding sun on 59th Street, then hurried to the corner squinting at a scrap of cream colored note paper upon which his father had sketched a map with directions. Stopping in the middle of the street, sweat seeping through his jacket, he got jostled a few times from behind. No one said excuse me, or if they did he couldn’t hear them above the blare of raging car horns. He shaded his eyes, looked across to Central Park South, realized he’d walked the wrong way, then turned around and located the skyscraper with its shiny bluish mirror-like windows.