Posted on September 13, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair9.13.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Dorothea Lange September 13, 2015: She needed to tell him. Like this:Like Loading... Related
4 Replies to “9.13.2015 Journal Prompt”
Lange…such an astonishing eye.
Henry said not to worry. He said it was just life and its ups and downs. He said what goes around comes around. All in good time, he said. His eyes is like pools and he’s pretty as a film star with a Clark Gable moustache and his hair all slick and brushed back. And he didn’t have two silver dollars to his name when I met him, nor pennies that he might rub together for luck. Henry said something’d come along and you see if it don’t, he said.
My pa warned me. Pa said Henry was no good and he said pretty din’t ‘mount to nothing but a shit load of trouble. He was meaning our mom and how she was pretty as a sunny day and she went off with a man in a sports car and she never came back and pa said that was what pretty was.
I ain’t exactly no sports car, I told pa, and pretty Henry wants to be with me. Pa got all soft then and tears running into his beard and he said he could see my mom in me, a little he could. The way I said things, too, it was just like her. And he said I was clever, which mam never was, and he said clever is what ‘mounted to something in this world even if that clever was in a girl.
Pa slipped some money into my hand and he said nothing. I told him we’d pay it back, every last cent, and I sowre we would. Pa just waved away my words and he smiled through his tears and it was like the day that mom went away and pa was telling us she’d be back sure as eggs and he smiled then through the tears and it was all the same.
We could get us some chickens and maybe a cow, Henry said. And a dog to sit by the fire and it’d wag its tail when I come in from my work and press its wet nose into my hand wanting petting. And the radio playing and you cooking sweet potatoes and a meat stew and corn bread yellow like the sun, and I’d pull you away and sweep you up in my arms and we’d dance till we was breathless.
Henry and he was pretty in his words, too. And he swept me up in his arms right there and like that we was dancing to the music in his head. And he was kissing me and touching me under my dress and blowing breath and sucking air and there was no smell of cooking and he was saying he loved me once and loved me twice and loved me more’n beans and rice, and in my head pa was saying how a body can’t live on love.
Pa says as it is a man’s business to provide – for his wife and his family. And a man’s to do whatever it takes and he’s to go where there’s work to be found, even if that means walking a hundred miles. And Henry smiles when pa says that and he nods and he pulls on his pipe, even though there ain’t nothing in the bowl. And he says one day he’s got a job.
And when we’re dancing and Henry’s touching me in my pants, and I’m sucking air like he is, well then I smell something. I smell flowers and cucumber. On his skin. And there’s a mark on his neck, like a bruise – the mark that a girl can give a boy just by sucking, and I know that mark ain’t mine. And Henry’s pockets as was empty before, they is filled with payday dollars now, and that’s why he’s talking pretty.
And there’s a woman with more money than sense and she has a studio in the city and she pays Henry to takes his clothes off and she snaps his picture and a hundred pictures she snaps and she says he could be a model with the pretty that he is. And she smells of flowers and cucumber.
Pa says pretty won’t ‘mount to nothing ‘cept trouble and he says sure as eggs, and the thing is I ain’t so sure of eggs since mom din’t come back like pa said she would, and I ain’t sure of anything, ‘cept Henry’s hands on me and looking into his eyes and it feels like swimming and drowning and I reckon could live or die on love and it would all the same to me.
Photographs is just lies sometimes. I didn’t know that before and I trusted alla time to what I saw printed in newspapers, trusted that what they showed me was true. Like if I point the camera at something and I press the button, and click, I have a record of that moment exactly as it was. Better than memory even. And looking at that picture can take me back to then and I can see it all clear as a cloudless sky and seeing farther than remembering ever could. And it’s that as makes you think that photographs carry only truth.
I know different now. They is sometimes just lies, plain and simple. Like when this lady came and she was just looking at first and measuring the light and she smiled like she was honest and good. And she got to talking. She said she wanted to take our picture, me and the Eddie’s. She said she’d pay us and all we had to do was sign a bit paper that gave her permission to print the picture. It was for a magazine she said and all the world‘d be looking at us.
She said I was pretty like a filmstar and she said Eddie was pretty, too. And she liked my dress and she said I was to sit at the back of where me and Eddie was living and Eddie was to sit up front. She rearranged things a little, the pot without its lid and the handle turned this way, and she asked if I had another dress, one with flowers in the pattern, and my plain dress hanging at the back and just above the bed, and she kicked the dirt about the floor so it looked like I hadn’t swept. She said it was so the picture had a narrative, which she meant it told a story, and she said I was to sit just so, still looking pretty, she said, but looking tired, too, and like life was hard enough.
Eddie she took a shine to and I could see that. She said he should remove his shirt and when he did I could hear her sucking air and her voice was all shaking. And she combed his hair so it was neat and not all anyhow, combed it herself, caressing Eddie right in front of me, bold as harlots, and she gave him a briarwood pipe to hold ‘tween his lips, and she crossed his arms in his lap. I could tell from her fussing that Eddie was what the picture was all about and it was his story and not mine and maybe not even his.
I seen the picture the other day. It was in the window of James Tatters’ store and it stopped me short. It was pretty is what I first thought and that on account of Eddie with his shirt off and looking all scrubbed up clean and his hair nice as it never is and him with a peacock smile. And then I noticed my dress, the one she got me to change into, and how she had me sitting, and it was like I was a girl of sixteen and not Eddie’s wife at all, a girl that’s never been kissed, and another one of my dresses hanging up behind me and the floor all mussed up and the bed like it aint been slept in.
Eddie got two dollars for sitting pretty in that picture and he took them dollars and drank ‘em straight down as whisky. The woman photographer she got a whole lot more than two dollars, I reckon, and that’s as it should be cos there’s more of her in the picture than there is of me and Eddie. And you can see that she had a fancy for Eddie and maybe he had a fancy for her, too, and looking at the picture in the window of James Tatters’ store I don’t see much in it that’s true and I hate it, all of it, and I know now that photographs can be lies.