That Old Polaroid

Originally published in Drunk Monkeys Literary Magazine 

April 25, 2025

Since before we moved houses, that old polaroid has been sitting there, beside my mother’s bed, for as long as I can remember. I try not to look at it when I walk into her room, the walls yellow with cigarette smoke. And even after she has shown it to me, I can never seem to remember his face.

It’s blurred out, censored as if he had never signed the consent to release form. A waiver, which I have to assume, was completely ignored, as my father wanted to keep his identity a mystery. This mystery, one that I was completely disinterested in ever attempting to solve, was one whose answers were not arrived at through games of “Guess Who” that were played at the tables of the bargain-basement daycare with the mean kids that played street hockey.

But I know it is not my memory that’s failed me. Because I remember in vivid remark that day, the last time that I saw my father, in the barbershop parking lot. I recall with grave distinction the look on his face before he dragged my mother out of the car by her hair, pounding her jaw against the hood of the white Ford Explorer. I remember when the ambulance came, and the beautiful EMT worker told me that my mother just had “a little booboo, like that one,” as she pointed to a mark on my arm that was, distinctly, not a booboo. I’ve been told that I couldn’t look at my mother for months, scarred, stitched, and flattened into an oblong disfigurement. My heart, like her jaw, was completely broken. And I could never look at my father again.

So, I censor it in my mind, like explicit language in a made-for-television movie, because it does not belong there. And after fifteen years, when my mother asks me where that old polaroid that’s been sitting beside her bed since before we moved houses has gone, I tell her that I do not know.