Before I leave you, I clean out my desk drawers. I no longer want to hold onto these things: Mr. & Mrs. rubber address stamp, sushi erasers you bought me even though I dislike seafood, unopened ovulation tracker. A film cartridge, black and white Kodak, 35 mm. Shot, but unprocessed.
It couldn’t possibly be from our wedding, could it? Maybe those pictures with the wedding party out in the park. I had stopped to check my makeup while you all went on ahead. As I ran to catch up, you were leaning in toward Eve, your lips to her ear while she reached for your fingertips. She laughed. You were always such a flirt. It was part of why I fell in love with you. You said you fell in love with me because I was the marrying kind.
I never asked what you meant.
It might be from that trip we took to Costa Rica eight years ago, the honeymoon we postponed because your frat brothers were in for the wedding and you didn’t dare set them loose in the city without supervision. I guess waiting made sense. That trip where we didn’t zip-line, although it’s something all the travel blogs recommended. Don’t be silly, you said, you’re afraid of heights. You couldn’t possibly. That trip where we traipsed through the rainforest instead of whizzing above it.
But who shoots macaws – their turquoise and magenta plumes – in black and white?
Maybe it’s a roll from that class I took nights at the Cooper Union. The one where I spent hours and hours in a darkroom with safelight and solutions trying to create something you would find complicated and cool. They were portraits of you. Asleep and true. After an especially long day at work, face down and sunk deep, an arm slung over your head. After a night out with the boys, splayed and snoring, mouth agape. After a night in just the two of us, curled toward me. Childlike. I couldn’t wait for you to see the final print.
You didn’t make it to the exhibit. You had the Mets.
It could be from the Oscars party we threw last year. Everyone dressed up or in costume and walking the red carpet. You, gorgeous in a rented tux played the charming host, interviewing guests about who they were wearing, their picks for Best Picture. Donna came as Bjork in a swan outfit. Where did she get that thing? Bernie was Cher in nothing but a sequined bikini and black fishnet. Only Bernie. Movie Trivial Pursuit and charades. Hors d’oeuvres and champagne from Costco. Such a fun time.
Then Tim toasted my new promotion. You said, It’s just a fancy title. Not like I can retire anytime soon. The room went church-quiet. I wanted to disappear. I said, I’ve got it! Isn’t that a line from Working Girl?
We never talked about it.
It must be from Mom’s funeral a few months ago. The traditional portrait we took whenever the family was all together. Dad seated front and center, grandchildren scrambled at his feet and we, his wife and daughters, standing at the back. In-laws at the wings. Mom was always in shadow. He, the sun. This last picture was different. Mom was missing of course, but so was I.
I took the picture.
The desk is empty now, the U-Haul packed out front. You’re away at your annual corporate conference in Napa, holding court no doubt. I don’t wonder if you’ll miss me; eventually you will. I don’t leave a note. Just this cartridge for you to process.
Catherine Chiarella Domonkos’ short fiction appears in a variety of literary journals and has been selected for Best Small Fictions. She received degrees in art history and business from New York University. She lives in Greenwich Village, NYC. Her website: https://www.catherinechiarelladomonkos.com