Kathy remembers all the summers she spent idly, exploring one fleeting hobby or another. Kathy and her mother lived in a rural area, with Kathy’s grandparents. Her father had died in a car accident a few years ago and so Kathy and her mother moved a few miles out of town to stay with her dead father’s parents. They ended up never leaving.
Kathy’s grandparents were respected members of the community. Her grandfather was a County Legislator in the 1970’s, and then later, after he retired, his wife won his seat. Kathy’s grandmother was the first woman to ever hold elected office in their county, and Kathy’s mom seemed really proud of her it. Kathy’s grandmother encouraged her granddaughter to have interests, and to pursue her interests.
Kathy spent a good part of one whole summer at an astronomy camp. Her grandparents drove her over 100 miles to a university, where she would stay for two weeks learning about stars and planets and how to use a telescope.
At that camp, Kathy met a girl who would later become her first lover during college. They had stayed in touch all through middle and high school, writing letters and picking out summer camps they could attend together. A couple times, they even got to spend weekends with each other, at one or another’s house. Kathy’s mom hated driving but her grandmother thought it was good for her to get out a little, and they often took turns driving.
One summer, when Kathy entered the 11th grade, her grandmother stopped wanting to go on the drives. She retired as a County Legislator the following year, right before Kathy left for college. Her grandmother was not able to make the drive to the university to see her granddaughter off. She ended up dying during Kathy’s second year of school, right after she and her girlfriend had broken up. Kathy sat on her bed in her room and thought back to astronomy camp, to all those stars and planets and the things that would end up outlasting her and everyone she ever knew.
Story by Cara Long Corra
Elisa went mad for Polaroids. It started sometime around Christmas, after her parents finally caved and bought her one. From that morning on, she never left home without it. I would see her sometimes, after school, standing at the snow, camera in hand staring at a dead branch, positively still, impervious to the cold as if her and that branch were caught in a moment neither had the strength to break. It was odd. But then again, Elisa was a bit odd. Or perhaps odd moments emanated from her without her control.
Either way I was pretty much the only person she talked to. This fact would have hurt a weaker person, but not Elisa. She had no need for people. She only interacted with them when they promised to be her subjects. When they allowed her to point her plastic friend in their face. She took pleasure in trapping them in that white box. Often times, when I would meet up with her in her house to study, I would find her on her bed or at her desk analyzing her photos. She was enamored with each of them. It was the happiest I would ever see her. Each one was a little window into a moment that would never be seen again, she tried to explain, her face alight with pure elation. I nodded as if I understood her obsession, and not as if I was finally realizing that those Polaroids were the only way Elisa knew how to deal with the world. She was most comfortable holding it at a distance, in a small frame in the palm of her hand. It was all there. Millions of little worlds.
I’m not sure what happened to her. In this photo-obsessed era she might be finally enjoying the warmth of being part of the majority, busy collecting like-minded souls on Instagram, but I doubt it. She is probably still walking the streets with her Polaroid camera. It was, after all, the sense of touch she loved most of all. I don’t think she’d able to live without caressing her little worlds.
Story by Sonya Redi
I sit on the bunk bed in my unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid for fear of perspiration, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile. Around me the plush animals, dogs mostly, seem perturbed and a little lost, like their names if they ever had them, which I suppose they must have done, same as I suppose that bland pink wall behind me must once have engrossed us with a texture. On the daisy patterned bedspread lie the other Polaroids – fogged, fading – and the other camera.
We got the cameras for our birthday. I remember using up all ten shots in the cartridge, then switching to those exciting flat boxes of spares that were our second presents and would double as places to hide secrets – click-clicking and whirring at everything that came to hand, one another, of course, the abalone and the amethyst, and other childhood keepsakes, the mobile of ceramic doves and, bizarrely, other photographs, of bands, and foreign lands, and boys, even Dylan, even then, with that breaking wave of blond-tipped hair and the latest incidence of bad skin on his sucked-in cheeks, framed forever on the daisy bedspread, or for as long as such cut-price alchemy can last.
Here it is beside me now, fading still: Dylan; Dylan’s bad skin and retro zoot jacket with the sleeves rolled over like a dozen times; Dylan’s car.
And there you sit on the lower bunk bed, in your unflattering puff sleeve top and high waisted pants, cheeks flushed, chin pimpled, thumb and fingers loosely gripping the exposed Polaroid in hope of miracles, lips drawn back to form an imperfectly braced smile.
Story by Paul Phillips