When I opened those boxes and crates in the living room I could only take so much before I had to quit. One of the objects that made me wish I could scour myself with a wire brush inside and out was a giant print of a photograph Damiana took of me after bar closing time one night. I’d worked that night and finally sat down to my first bottle of Bud, wrapped in a giant crimson wool jacket on a cold, cold night. Damiana had followed me downstairs into the bar’s basement with the camera, which I was avoiding. I was too tired to argue with her. She said, “I want to photograph you in your natural environment.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll bring a brilliant blue baby pool, hot pink Lolita glasses, my 1950s Barbie bathing suit and a tropical fruit beverage to your basement at night. We’ll fill the pool with water. We’ll dangle the uninflated swimmies over the edge of the pool and polish my toenails Hypoxia Blue. I have a perfect carnelian lipstick. We’ll use a couple of garage drop lights and leave the basement dark and threatening. It’s the image of a lifetime.”
“No,” she said. “This is your natural environment.”
I lay my head on the bar and waited for her to get bored. It was already obvious that she didn’t know me; I should have realized then the only original thing she would ever do was have unprotected sex with Morgan and get pregnant – which isn’t all that original, is it? She knew the only reason she and I were ever friends was that she’d had a fling with Morgan before she and I met, and it was over. I knew and know him well. He moved out for the third time almost ten years ago but I always know where he is. It’s a small town. She and I were friends in that she was about fifteen years younger than me, Italian and with Mommy problems; she played at being an artist but none of it mattered. It was apparent to me she was looking for someone to solve her problems and take care of her. Then one day Siobhan broke down and told me Damiana and Morgan had done something really stupid. Later there was talk of some quicky marriage that never took place. Damiana had an abortion, then suffered complications. It ended very badly for everyone. Essentially, this tore my social circle in half. For a long time, I had to be very clear with friends that if I saw her I wouldn’t be able to control my rage; we could not be in the same places. Since I never saw Morgan anyway rage wasn’t much of an issue between us. She left New Brunswick, later she came back but doesn’t work or live in town.
So here is this photograph. All the dark, blurred edges, the much-too-much booze, corrosive lies, the false friends and lost loves, the pain that is never far from mind, a small spotlight and a blind eye – these things, much as I wish these things drifted away with other lost memories, they do not. I walk by the pile of artifacts, catch a glimpse of the photograph, and wish it had all never happened. My breath catches again. These are my options then: throw away this picture and pretend I’ve forgotten or keep it and wonder if I’m glad I didn’t break every bone in her face.
I’m leaning toward keeping it as a sign that I have more control over anger than I think.