A photograph’s a funny thing. Never cared for ‘em myself. Don’t trust ‘em. Personally, photographs have always reminded me of those damned traveling salesmen who parked their over-waxed cars in my driveway every month or so (this was before the Internet). Real slimy bastards, and I mean that in every sense of the word – smooth talkers, but genuine scoundrels who combed their hair with black shoe polish so thick you could see the sheen glinting even in the pitch black. That’s right, just like those fellas, a photograph is always hiding something. It only ever shows a moment for what you want it to be, not what it was. But Rona, she loved ‘em. Toted a damn Polaroid everywhere we went, never even let it out of her sight. I remember one time we were driving cross-country to Fresno, and when we were three hours out she realized she’d forgotten the camera and she made me turn around.
Rona. She was part of the reason I hated photographs so much in the first place. That thing I said about them not showing the truth – well, that was especially true when it came to Rona. Film never captured her quite right. I don’t know why, exactly – I think it’s just a matter of some things can’t be put on paper. But I do know that photographs never did Rona justice, and that hurt me as deeply as though it were a stab wound to the gut. In life, she was vital. Her teeth weren’t straight, but her smile could’ve lit up a goddamn sewer. She moved with a strange kind of grace – and she was always moving. Couldn’t get her to sit still, not once, ever. She was an angel. God, I hate clichés, but I don’t know what else to call her. She was an angel. She was the light of my goddamn life, but you’d never know it from lookin’ at a picture. And that’s what really killed me, that no one on the outside would ever understand how beautiful, how wonderful, how truly remarkable my Rona was.
What’s that? Oh, yeah, right. This picture was taken about, uh, six weeks before I saw her last, I think. Yeah, we were at some hotel in Milwaukee – the Yellow Dog Inn, or something like that. We were going to see Paul Simon. We traveled a lot. Her daughter came with us, and Rona had wanted a nice picture of the two of us. I remember her lamenting how the pictures turned out, how distracted she looked. But I kept ‘em all. Two months later, she busted both my kneecaps with a ball-peen hammer, stole my Harley, and rode off with some guy named Victor. Like I said, a photograph’s a funny thing.
Story by N. Bartlett