The old man didn’t leave a lot of tangible things behind. He did leave several hundred photos of people long dead. People on a beach in 1914, twirling in youth. A woman in France with a butch haircut and small curious lips. None of them identified but each linked by the expressions they wore in the middle of their frozen instants.
Anyone I’d ask about them has passed. About fifteen years ago, he’d asked me if I’d wanted his medical slides and I’d blanched, the memory of those in-process surgeries projected onto his study wall, the organs and vessels like fleshy worms opening to the metallic instruments probing them. It was too vivid for me to acknowledge. And now they too are gone. Images lost in a massive collection of detritus spread across the earth.
The slides he did keep were lodged in the manila folders of his filing cabinet. Most of them were photos from his life after my brother was born, but before I came along. They’d moved to Nashville and the house and the nanny and Mom and Dad all have their focus guided by the infant that collected them together. Late at night, those are the images I have of him, a few years younger than I am now, ready to hammer it down, my brother perched on his chest, a beacon of the future just within reach.
by Hank Cherry