My morning starts with a flash. Mom stares at me with annoyance. “Will you ever put that camera down?” she asks me in exasperation. I shake my head, my thick ponytail gently bobbing side to side, my eyes shining in amusement. “Let me see it.” She coerces me over from her seat, arms stretching out on the cotton tablecloth splattered with various sunset colored flowers. Cups of spiced chai are lined up sporadically for the various family members who need their fix. Mom grasps the polaroid in her hand, watching it intently as it slowly develops from a dark visage to a dull picture, quite literally making something where there once was nothing. She smiles as she starts to notice her features, her warm dark brown eyes looking starkly black within the frame. The red turtleneck that sat on her neck made her look almost regal, and I swear if you could not see her worn out slippers peaking from underneath the table you could have thought she were a Queen. I walked back to my spot on the other side of the table as my aunt sits down, soft but powerful. She takes a cup of chai, its heat steaming her face as she takes a sip. Mom hands her the polaroid. She stares. “Is this what the kids are into these days?” I laugh softly, my lips tilting softly in amusement. She stared at me for a couple of seconds, then looked at Mom and shrugged.
I pick up my camera and position the lens over my left eye, squinting my right in a fast reflex. My finger holds the lever. I take a deep breath.
Story by Sonali
Riley refused to call it a “divorce” and instead called it a “transition” as if to try to shield me from what he assumed would be a shocking blow. Instead, the news was a relief. After Riley had walked out the door for the last time with only his mother’s wedding ring, I walked to the hardware store and bought bright yellow paint. Then, I walked back and painted the kitchen cabinets yellow. Then, I laid a yellow flowered table cloth on the kitchen table and called my mother. She booked a flight right away.
“It all looks very bright, Joan,” she said when she walked in.
“New beginnings,” I said and brought down a box of Polaroids I had taken at a time before Riley entered my life. They had been expertly hidden in the cupboard because I was quite embarrassed with my photographing skills. I sat down and flipped through them and tried to remember what I was thinking when I took each photograph. They were mainly pictures of when I hiked Mount Kilimanjaro at age nineteen.
“It’s not really fitting for the mood,” she said.
“But, you see Ma, I’m happy he divorced me. It’s thrilling to be single and be everything married people aren’t and have everything married people don’t have.”
“It’s a garish color.”
“I wasn’t happy with him. I never was.”
“If you like the color, then fine. It’s just that I think the color is garish.”
“It’s more than the color, Ma, and you know it. It’s what yellow reminds me of. The future. Opportunity. A field of restless wheat.” I came across a photograph of the sun, a white bullseye in the picture. I seemed so close to it, close enough to reach out and touch it.
I almost smiled then, but I held back because of how frightening this independence was. It was exalting, sure, but it was overwhelming too. The divorce should have been the end of my life but instead, it felt like the beginning of something bigger that had not yet rose above the horizon.
Story by L. M. Boyd