He'd look at the photograph for hours. He'd sit as still as a statue. A gnarled hand would idly scratch the gray stubble on his chin, or rest a palm over an eye, as if by denying himself the depth of vision he could somehow see deeper.

He couldn't remember taking the picture. His daughter assured him that he did, he had, a great many years ago. Decades had disappeared since then, leaving only a great black gulf of emptiness in his mind. It was as though some malicious editor had taken a razor to his lifelong reel of film and cut out a 40-year chunk.

He thought that he should be terrified, but rather than fear he felt only a pleasurable calm. It was like he'd been drinking enough to lose himself, just a little. Just enough so that he could sit back in quiet contemplation without feeling the cold, grasping claws of reality. There couldn't have been fear, anyway. That whatever was missing from his memory was nothing more than a dull irritation, because he couldn't be sure he'd even lived it in the first place. It was a sluggish questioning that went 'round and 'round, spinning only when he could muster the energy.

The woman frozen in the photograph stared back at him from across the dark chasm of those lost years. She triggered no recognition in him whatsoever. Her face had been caught in profile, right in the midst of turning her head. Her features were a soft blur, but the sidelong glance from her eyes clearly danced with coy delight. She was a vision, whoever she'd been.

If he'd loved or hated her, he knew not now.

2014.04.15 – 2023.01.01

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