Death in Silverprint


When I look at the photograph, I don’t remember much. I remember Delores wanted us to paint our cheeks. I think I may have been the one to think of the red arrows. But there we stand. I am smoking the cigarette and Delores is holding the bottle of Dewar’s Scotch We look casual, as if only slightly interested in the photographer. I don’t remember a cow skull sitting in the yard. The window curtains are pulled aside as if someone were watching from inside the cabin. I don’t remember the second photograph at all. I don’t remember making a kissy face at the camera or holding the bottle up to Delores’ mouth. I don’t remember the car in the parking lot. For some reason most of that afternoon is blocked out. I don’t intend to find out why either. Maybe something bad happened. Maybe Delores remembers but you can’t ask her because she’s dead. I heard she killed herself. Maybe she was haunted by something. I don’t know. I doubt it. I don’t know why people are coming around asking me about these photos. The past is the past right?

I stop the WAVE File that Jimmy has emailed me. I feel uncomfortable sitting on the train by myself.

I have no reason to feel this way. The train isn’t crowded. There are two women in their sixties sitting a couple of seats in front of me and I don’t want to think of what I have just listened to, so I concentrate on their conversation instead. One of them is laughing in a boisterous way that makes me embarrassed. I have no reason to feel this way. Why can’t a person be happy? Why can’t a person express joviality on public transportation? I close my eyes. I listen to the sound of their laughter and somehow the laughter morphs into a vision. In it

I am dancing with a man I can’t recognize. He is laughing and I can smell the gel in his hair. He has his hands on my waist. He is saying my name of over and over, but it isn’t my name.

“Linnie,” he says.

“Linnie!”

I struggle against him but he has put a hand behind my head. I can’t turn away from him. He has this intense look and I want so badly to figure out why his eyes have changed color.

But now I am back on the train and I still hear the women laughing. I stand up and walk towards the snack car for a Coke.

At the apartment I am scalding some artichoke soup. My mind is on the photos. Jimmy is texting me from his favorite Pub downtown, Lucky Jacks.

What did you think of the interview?

Instead of sleeping with my arm around his back like I used to, I now slept cradling the photos near my neck, a fear that someone might steal them in the night. They are becoming my most prized possession.

He helps me research them on our days off from work. I start looking at the back of the photos trying to when the photos were taken. The back is stamped with Kodak/Velox paper but there is no date. I start thumbing through the Beckett book, trying to look for names and dates, something I had never thought to do. I find it on the inside binding. The first name is Linnie and a last name I can’t pronounce with an address written in cursive on the first page.

I get sleepy while watching a television program about the plague. I turn on the laptop and listen to the interview again… I am so obsessed with hearing her describe what was happening the day of the photograph, what was going on in her head They are just ghosts staring at us and daring us to guess about their lives.

I look hard at the photographs. I try to figure out which one is Linnie and which one is Delores. In my head they become like Thelma and Louise. Maybe they are escaping poverty or bad marriages or addictions. But are they escaping something or just having a good time? There is something desperate in their postures. Almost as if they are forcing themselves to have a good time. It is then that my imaginary narrative changes Are they sisters? Are they themselves lovers? I fall asleep wondering why they chose to paint the arrow on their cheeks. I get chills on my arms. I guess they really were like Thelma and Louise. One of them was anyway.

I text him back.

How in the world did you find this?

Jimmy texts me again 15 minutes later and tells me to check my email. It is a link to a unsolved murders website. I see Linnie’s name with the odd German surname in stark black lettering. Above it is the name of the victim. Her name is Delores. Linnie is listed as the last person to have had contact with Delores. They found her body near Green Lake Park.

The cause of death was listed as unknown but because of the circumstances Delores’s family thought she had probably been murdered. The interview was from the website. Someone from Delores’ Family had long ago tried to contact Linnie but she wasn’t interested in rehashing the past. She obviously felt it wasn’t her problem.

I water the plants, and make a half-hearted attempt at sweeping.

§

I met Jimmy at the bookshop where I found the photographs. We were browsing in the same section.

We both spotted the book at the same time. A rare copy of Samuel Beckett’s Whoroscope. It was two-hundred dollars and I splurged, convincing myself it was an extravagant Birthday present. We struck up a conversation and before I knew it we had made a date to have coffee the next day. At the register I noticed the photos sort of fall out of page 15 and I tucked them back carefully, not fully realizing what I had found.

§

Jimmy comes in late from the bar and wants us to get into the hot tub. We change and get in and he reaches over and pulls my hand into his trunks. I get out of the hot tub and go inside to get myself a glass of wine. He follows me inside, and tries to pull me over to the couch. I resist at first but then he has my swimsuit off and he’s doing things to me and I still can’t stop thinking about the photos.

The next morning he has written a note on the bathroom mirror with shaving cream.

She reads Moses and says her love is crucified.

He has written me a line from Beckett’s book.

The dreams and visions continue on and off for weeks. Mostly always nightmares involving A woman crying and a man pleading with her and then the woman looks at me and I see horror in her eyes.

I feel consumed by the photos, obsessed even. My own life not seeming to matter anymore.

I lay the pictures flat on the coffee table and go into the kitchen to fix myself some coffee. When I come back I spill some on the corner of the photo and curse myself for being so clumsy. “Dammit!”

I am in love. I am suddenly seized with the urge to get the pictures out of my head forever. I walk over to my purse and take out the Ed Hardy lighter and walk outside to the porch. The photo starts to quiver before I snap the lighter. When it’s white edge meets the flame it burns slowly at first, then faster. I watch as first Linnie and then Delores and the bottle between them disappears into brown, and then finally, black.


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