I see her sometimes. Right in front of me I pull focus on an image. Smiling. Another image. Younger. And smiling.
No image that is clear lacks a smile.
As a child, I saw them hanging on paneled walls in wooden frames amid a menagerie of newer portraits or tucked inside plastic sleeves in albums with cardboard, felt-lined covers with fraying corners. Single-serving heartbeats, some willingly surrendered before the professional’s eye, others stolen by amateurs. Though numerous, combined they document less than a moment, so I am left to imagine her in the seconds before each one, the cajoling and the priming and her standing still and waiting for the shutter to blink so she can too.
But there is no movement.
Lately that comes in the periphery, where a leaf dances quickly in the wind and is then swept away and I can’t turn my head to find it, stuck fast like those bound in Plato’s cave who see things not as they are but as they appear to be. I have been told she would be so proud, but the smiles I see do not fit the moments. Only those so long ago.
Her memory is trapped in others. Eleven months I had her and I am left with nothing. I must have known the sound of her voice, her various inflections when she sang or laughed or talked or cried. I must have welcomed the familiar warmth and texture of her skin as I lay against it.
If there is anything at all it is buried deep under the piling up of years, or simply replaced, lost in the grind of growing up. I cannot see her living life with me. Living life at all.