I never imagined meeting my ghosts in a desert. I thought we would all come together when I was even older, more timeworn, defying gravity out of this body. But here she is, at my door in Behan, Arizona, darker than I remember her father, perhaps even taller than him, carrying a ghost from my past inside a large envelope. I want to know how she found me but asking won’t change that she did.
She spills the photographs on my coffee table. I didn’t invite her in but like a barn cat she has squeezed inside. No one comes by when you get this old, so I can’t say I would have put up a fight.
Tell me the story of these photos, she politely demands without “May I sit down?” “I hope I am not bothering…” “If it isn’t too much to ask….” She sits comfortably in my Hunzinger lollipop rocking chair, her hands rest on top of her thighs, the index fingers almost touching. How long has she been waiting for this conversation?
Forty-years ago. I can’t recall all my lovers.
My mother told me before she died that my father never loved another like he loved you. ‘Go find that kind of love’ she said. Her accent surfaces without warning. Her father would have called it “colonizing English.”
My red mouth in the photograph on the very top of the pile certainly belongs in another life.
In another photograph, his hand is pressed against the small of my back on top of my red coat, our backs toward whoever took the picture, as we strolled down the hill on some Dutch street in Amsterdam. Even though our faces aren’t visible, I can see his ‘dark smile’—as he called it—and I am laughing. Why did we decide to meet there? I know. Yes, yes. Why was I laughing? I can’t recall.
“He thought he did,” I finally answer.
She reminds me of me at her age.
I know she will ask some more questions and soon leave me like I made her up in my head.
All the wrinkles on my hands, holding my walker, remind me of arbitrary shapeshifting geographic boundaries on maps. I scuttle away from the photos. I should help her but then again answers like the one she is looking for don’t come by asking questions.
Annie Q. Syed (@so_you_know) is a reader and writer who teaches full time to inspire students to read and write. Her stories, Collection of Auguries, were published in 2013. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, Ellipses Zine, Blue Fifth Review, The Bangor Literary Journal, Former Cactus and Reflex Fiction anthology. You can find her at http://www.anniesyed.com or at @so_you_know