Pictures of the Dead

I told myself I could handle it.

I missed his face. I saw his face for sixteen years straight, every single day. It’s the face I saw each morning when I’d go in his room to kiss him good-bye before my mom drove me to school, the face that sat across from me at dinner each night.

I wanted to see his eyes, his nose, his cheeks, all the features that made him a living human being, that made him my father.

I told myself I could handle the pictures. I’d packed them away for years, only taking them out on special occasions, like his birthday or the anniversary of his death. I put all my photographs of him in a red photo album. I’d flip through the album and cry myself to the point of exhaustion, I’d sob until I could not breathe and my chest trembled and my eyes were swollen shut

I want to see him but I don’t.

I want to remember him but I don’t.

To remember him is to remember his death all over again. It is to feel an absence that nearly kills me. He is not here but the pictures are and the pictures are nothing. They bear witness to a life that was destroyed.

I’m Orpheus looking back at Eurydice at the edge of the Underworld. To look back is to see the loss over and over, to watch the dead die again.

I search for him in the photos but what I find is an illusion.

I told myself I wanted that illusion, that I could handle it. So I took some pictures from the red photo album and displayed them in my room so that I could see his face every single day the way I used to.

I lasted a few months before I could not bear it anymore.

I turned the pictures so that the backs only showed. I had to turn away from my father’s face. I had to turn my father’s face away from me.

I can’t look back or I will be swallowed by grief.

At some point, I will slip the pictures back into the album sleeves and put them back where they belong, back where I don’t have to see him and remember all that I have lost.