Pictures of you

In the den on the bookshelf he keeps a framed set of photos of himself. Starting at 10 o’clock and moving clockwise, he is a grade school student in a striped red turtleneck, the late 1970s. The picture has the hue of the decade, peach-pink along the edges, the same as is his small white face. Next he is more of a man but mostly a boy, more like his mom than his dad, smiling and hopeful still. By 3 o’clock he is in the awkward teenage phase and has not slept well, his eyes puffy and his hair combed in a wave. A rugby shirt, the first time he’s trying to look older than his age: to reach across one box to the next.

In the last two frames he has a drink, for he is in his twenties and thirties now: the first, that apartment in Pittsburgh with a fluffy cat on his lap. A mixed drink, a spry look in his eye. At 9 o’clock he’s pouring a beer into a Mason jar, 2004. He’s wearing a beard and an African robe, his cheeks are flushed. Others in the background are smaller, everyone frozen mid-pose.

It’s not clear why he’s chosen these photos or displays them so prominently. But today he sees himself differently. Maybe it’s the drinks, but you can read into this what you want. You can imagine what will become of this little boy, unknowing in the first few frames. The man in the last two is the same as the boy in the first, he has always been like this.

It’s no accident he chose these photos, he wants to remind himself of where he’s been. He imagines the day the first photo was taken, like a dream where he’s floating on the edges looking down: a line of noisy schoolchildren queuing below. They are waiting in a dark hallway outside the room where the pictures are being taken, a big screen and camera, look here and hold.

Weeks later the photos come in a paper envelope with a plastic, see-through window. His mother cuts them out with the scissors and puts them in the mail, she is so proud. You can line them up over the years to see how much he’s grown.

Today he sees himself as if for the first time. He loves the young man he once was, the drinker too. You can fit any one of us into a box, cut us out of the grid. We are all waiting for our turn to sit on the stool. It is the one chance we get to be our best, to show the world here we are. Look here and hold.

Categories: identity, prose, writing

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. Oooh, that last line, Bill: “Look here and hold.” A gorgeous choice.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m on the 24 hour clock;
    I hope he gets to graduate.
    Thanks Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful writing, and what a good practice and use of all those carefully clipped photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Kristen! And shout out to PA, I’m heading back for a brief visit this week to celebrate my dad’s birthday! Y’all have had the AC going already I reckon ha ha. Thanks for this and for reading!


  4. With “Pictures of You”, I was expecting an essay about the Cure.

    Liked by 1 person

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