Oct/Nov 2008  •   Fiction


by S.J. Brooks

Pictures don't tell you anything. They don't tell you how your skin felt as you walked along under the mesquite trees lining that dry riverbed. It was early spring; the sunlight came through the afternoon, covering the edges of grass blades and bark with a holy white light. Almost choked you. That picture in your greasy fingers of the old Volkswagen, rusted brown, far back off the road, doesn't tell you how there was a warm pipe in your pocket and ants crawling over the tops of your socks, the highway turned to meadows, tall grass swaying in the warmth; it doesn't show you the piercing greenness flooding through the trees where you sat down with your old love, looking out onto the sky, the clouds so thick, their edges streaming out like loose cotton threads from your old black tee shirt. The shirt was almost translucent, the belly worn so thin and smooth you could have wrapped a newborn in it, like swaddling clothes from K-Mart some lost day. It had survived longer than most of the people in your life. It could have covered the sunlight and all the future scars, the wounds from the sun, down in that thicket of mesquite and red riverbed. Your feet shuffled around that abandoned Volkswagen. She held your camera up to her eye. When the shutter clicked, all that was meant to be bloomed. You knew, as her eye closed and opened, as she held the lens out facing the sun, the film would overexpose, and one day, in that dark room, back home, you'd wait for the whiteness to come clear, like God's eye in the windshield. She'd held it all in her tiny hands, her bones clicking, the lens blinking. The smoke drifted up, and car tires rolled out of sight, trailing over the dry land and the rocks. The gravels were turning. You both heard them sharply turning, and you were not afraid—just sat looking at that Volkswagen, thinking maybe life was some lukewarm, birth canal dream, that maybe there were only a few things you would remember once you got past the dead layers of skin to the negatives inside the bones.