(Answer To Exercise Page 4)¹
It smells like it came from an attic. Browned round the edges and smelling of dry and warm, it’s more than a picture. It’s a photograph. Two people I don’t know stand arm in arm: him with a white boutonnière on his lapel, her with a bouquet of white in her hand. But his suit’s too large and her dress is off white; her ankles are fat so I guess she’s a waitress or a maid, while with his bandy legs I imagine he works in a warehouse or maybe on the docks, though his hands don’t seem thick and heavy. They live modestly in a city in a two roomer above a dry cleaner’s: sweaty in the summer but warm in the winter, and always smelling of those chemicals. They have no children yet, waiting for a better job or to hit the lottery or for some uncle to call—or until their patience wears out. Did they elope?
They’re a nice looking couple, nearly matched in height with neither really smiling. That’s okay; most couples who smile too much on their wedding day get divorced all too soon. I like them, and glad I found them while hunting through a used bookshop, not knowing I’d taken them home until page 22. It’s a slim book of poetry, which he read to her at night, or her to him, while the city streets slunk away into a quiet and the moon peeped in on them through a tear in the shade of the only window. Maybe a cat on the sill listened as was read aloud:
“This morning I will not
Comb my hair.
It has lain
Pillowed on the hand of my lover.” ²
Then again, the book is not that old, so someone has just forgotten them.
I replace the photograph and gently close the book. They will of course be gone now, their children, too, if not just old; but I keep hoping somewhere someone remembers them, and will one day come knocking on my door to ask, “Have you seen my grandparents?”
copyright © 2012 by mari t.
¹ Ellis, Sherry. Ed. Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today’s Best Writers & Teachers. New York. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. 2006. Print.
² Hitomaro. “Unnamed”. Trans. Rexroth, Kenneth. One Hundred Poems from the Japanese. New York. New Directions. 1964. Print. Page 22.