The Stranger in the Photo is MeA Story by Hypnotique
An ancient piece I did for an English assignment when I was still an angsty teenager. I WILL be adding an update to this, from my present point of view, so keep an eye out for it!
My mother took most of the snapshots that were worth looking at when she left. The others my dad had to hunt around for. Neither of us are very sentimental, but something that day made me want to stare in the face of my future and glance back at the past.
I never did find what I was looking for at my house, so-with great reluctance- I called my mother. Her new willingness to embrace the fact that she had bore children-which, for 16 years, she tended to conveniently ignore- did nothing to change our gruesome past or my opinion of her present. Avoiding the unsettling- but by now completely expected- brunt of her pleasantries as best as I could, I asked politely to borrow some the old, flower patterned photo albums that looked, to me, as if the 1960s had thrown up Woodstock all over their covers.
Many of the pictures in the albums were taken by me as a child, with my standing army of 1-10 film cameras that my dad had given me out of his equipment or bought for me. My two favorites, or which I am still the proud owner with many fond memories, were a long, broken Kodak Pony camera, and a stout camera in white, with silhouettes of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians on the body and a striking scarlet strap. The photos in the albums without miscellaneous body parts accidentally cropped out were taken by either my dad or my grandmother. My dad is the real photographer in the family. Not me. It’s his photographs on our walls and the internet that detail where I’ve gone, and where I dreamed of going. Some shots even featured me, as a child.
That doesn’t happen often anymore.
I stopped fondly meandering through old, painterly color photos and 1-hour candid developments when a particular image caught my eye.
Begrudgingly, I mused over why that little girl stopped smiling.
In the photographs that passed by, a little girl, with thick brown hair and happy blue eyes stares out at the world from her rectangular prison. She’s pudgy, but people who still have baby fat and spend their lives in a constant state of pain and immobility can be like that- it’s not as if that aspect has changed all that much. There’s a kindergarten class photo next to a large, crystal clear black and white portrait shot of her. She’s on a lawn, with a fine mist falling around her. It didn’t seem to deter her good mood. The white jacket around her shoulders is much too big for her. It’s probably her father’s. In another shot, she sports new glasses, but the happiness is still there, behind two twin panes of plastic in purple frames. She’s in a room with a gaudy floor and way too many knickknacks, but also very stately. Her blue paisley Sunday dress matches the blue paneled walls. The only thing out of place is below the belt, where she perches high on her tiptoes, even in chunk-heeled brown sandals.
But the photograph holding my attention captive was none of these. In that photograph, the sun was shining brightly into that same blue walled room. There’s a girl in that picture. Not a tomboy, not a teenager, but a girl who looks like she could’ve grown into a confidant young woman. She stands in front of a cabinet of “nice” things, and behind the lower registers of an old Haddorff upright grand piano. Her purple turtleneck and blue tartan dress clash hideously, but no one seems to mind. And then the focal point- the big, honest-to-God smile on her happy face.
It took a moment.
Then I realized that the stranger in the photo is me.
Looking down, a disturbing feeling overcame me. I had to close the album to escape my sick memories of pain, anger, and hatred. Yet I was calm, knowing those days had passed, leaving an outline of humanity fully intact, its insides scheduled for reconstruction. Still, something about the photo before the endless battles was intriguing.
I couldn’t help but look again.
What was it that made her smile in every photo until she turned about 8? What was it that kept her from seeing all the things wrong with her life until it was too late to fix it?
It was the way she refused to believe that the beast lived and breathed beside her. It was the way she wanted to believe that there was good in everyone. It was the morals and religion forced onto her from birth, which she would inevitably wrestle with for the better part of her existence.
It would soon come to pass that the thing that kept the smile on her face would fade, slowly, into oblivion. Rarely now is it seen as a constant. Rarely now is it necessary. Intent on the photograph of the me I was, many moons ago, it came to me.
They say ignorance is bliss. Naivety was just a fancy way to say it.
I’m starting to believe that.
© 2012 Hypnotique
AboutI'm a hobbyist writer, blogger, columnist and counselor on a mission to complete parts of my bucket list! And to complete those things, I need to be in tip-top writing condition. So, I figured I'd joi.. more..