An Unclaimed Likeness is a blog series meant to give voice to forgotten photographs. These stories are a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Today there was a heartbeat of space, between the tremor of hush in the trees and the boys’ flickering eyes over the milky fog, where I wished I could reach you.
I watched their irises light with newborn sun and their blonde lashes beat time with my oar strokes through the pale water. It was a pure morning- the kind where God allows you to believe you’re tucked safe between rock, branch, and ripple in a blanket-fort of your own adventure.
In their differences, our boys are striking:
Liam, with his crystal-blue gaze and quick hands, is forever finding something to disassemble and then piece back together. He’s a marvel of steady personality: mechanically inclined, soft-tempered, and endlessly patient. He will sit for hours, crappy rod tucked gentle between his fingers, but watch the banks for thirsty deer and wood ducks nesting along the flooded timber. He is a creature of the land, much like you, forever studying life-phases of bugs and the changing of the leaves. Fishing doesn’t bring him joy but I think it brings him peace, to be at the center of waking and wandering wildlife.
Declan lives and breathes the river, with brown eyes tracing every slough and beaver slide with a hunger I can only compare to my own. He’s continuously on the hunt for arrowheads in the sand or cattails or minnows in the shallow pools. Dec is gunpowder incarnate; he never runs out of things to talk about and you aughta hear his laughter. I can’t imagine there’s anything more infectious out there than Dec’s laugh. He’ll shoot off, red faced and yelling like a bottle-rocket, over food he doesn’t want to eat or having to wear a shirt with a starched collar on Sunday but move on and be happy as a clam two hours later. There is a brilliance in him, Selene- a bright, shining aura, and even strangers want to know him.
They are both beautiful. One craves poetry, one devours science magazines. One whistles when he washes the dishes, the other is learning to play guitar.
They still ask about you. They want to know what color your hair was. They want to know what kind of food you liked for breakfast. They want to know if you could sing.
They never ask where you are, Selene, and I can’t say I blame them – God knows, I don’t mean it harshly. They’re curious but they fear my reaction to that question too much. It tears me up to think there’s a possibility they are scared to talk to me about you but, to be honest, I don’t know how to talk about you. I don’t know how to talk about the illness in your mind or the weakness I feel for not noticing it soon enough. For watching you struggle and thinking: She just wants attention. A silly, arrogant husband too busy to comprehend the darkness my own wife was swimming in.
I want you to come home. I want you to be here – experiencing these sunny mornings and the light in the boy’s eyes. You got any idea how much it breaks me to say that? To know I can’t fix this. To know I can’t heal you. Yet, the brokenness I feel seems nothing compared to what you experience, I think. Last time I visited, you had paintings stacked six deep leaning against the wall and what I saw in them was both the most eerie and awe-inspiring artwork I’ve ever laid eyes on.
It seems that has become a metaphor for who you are, Selene, within those paintings. A woman in black and white ink, drifting from room to room with a jaw hewn from ice. You’re somewhere else entirely when I sit next to you, yet still the most vibrant woman I’ve ever known.
If a nurse reads this to you, on a day when you want to remember, I’m sending two photographs as well. Dad snuck down with his new camera to take them. I like to think Liam is like my dad in some ways, always tinkering with a new gadget or toy, trying to catch infinite moments between gears. The dog pictured belongs to the boys; Liam named him “Huck” after Huckleberry Finn and Dec wants to teach him to tree coons. The boys adore him but Huck seems to find comfort sleeping at my feet each night – at times I wonder if he knows I need that comfort as well.
I love you, Selene. We love you.