Ha, I remember this day like it was just last month. That’s George, combing his hair in my aunt’s bathroom. He had lost his sister a few weeks before, he’d been totally inconsolable, convulsing and incapable of being alone. He knew my aunt from bowling, she took him in. She was great at keeping him from ruminating, kept him happy, kept him bowling. He knew it was a distraction but he played along. It was good to see him embrace it. Can you see that in his eyes here?
This was the day their bowling team, Red Fingers — they always wore red nail polish — was up against their arch-rivals, The Diego Dusters, in the finals of the alley’s championship. They had never made it this far in any competition before. George was so giddy, I’d never seen a bowling ball roll down the alley with such tremor. He missed a few but landed more strikes than anyone else. That night, he kissed his silver trophy and left with his shoulders back and chest out, ready to display it in his bedroom, content at home again.
A few months ago I caught him eating bugles at the laundromat. He’s grown a little haggard but he still keeps those nails red, even though they were textured by that tangerine dust. The tips of his hair were all still a little red from when he dyed it after my aunt passed last year. His old crew has just one member left. The rest have gone, moved to find work or died too. George tells me he keeps bowling. On days that he’s broke he lines up his empty beer bottles in the alleyway out back and at them rolls the bowling ball I got for his 75th, colored with swirls of black, brown and red and inscribed with his sister’s name. It’s already scratched up like a cheap old blackboard.
Story by Romke Hoogwaerts
He’s pacing in the hall again. I know you hear his footsteps. He’s a heavy walker, the kind that announces his presence from miles away. Hear him thundering towards you, the great giant. Each time his foot sinks into the orange shag rug. Hear him crush cities in the crevasse of his toe. They live there now, set up refuge in a gorge produced by folded skin.
You’ve started taking pictures of things. Your salt-stained snow boots by the door. A cup of instant black coffee and its spittle on the dining room table. Your periwinkle scarf hiding under the couch. Through this endeavor you have inevitability captured pictures of him as well. Half of his face, his smudged reflection in picture frame above the couch, the back of his head as he bolts the front door. You love him, you know you must. How many years together? Don’t answer that, it just makes you sad. Not the kind of sad that drives you inward, that causes you to ruminate. It is only the kind of sad that sits with you, a friend in the bottom of your stomach. It’s pressing on your bladder when you lean down from your perch. Your perch is only a faux-leather chair, rough and peeled back after suffering years of scrapings.
The ball of hair hiding behind the door. His hand groping blindly in the silverware drawer. The wet bar of floral soap you keep in the half bath. Your sister when she comes to visit. You’ve started documenting, obsessively. You’re not sure why, but you stack the photos in piles of exactly ten, no more no less, and lay them like bricks around the perimeter of your bed. He’s humming again, and each note fills you until there is little room for much else. A squirrel at the bird feeder. Half of your groceries on the kitchen floor. Sometimes he takes photos of you, and sometimes, you even keep them.
Story by Emmett Flinkman