9

“Say ‘lettuce’ and spell ‘cup.’”

We see those photographs of us as children teasing each other and we call them keepsakes. A time we can’t return to, snapshots of the smallest versions of us literally experiencing everything for the first time in our lives.

Does that suggest that, because we are recycling the same emotions again and again, that we are not actually becoming bigger versions of ourselves, but the same tiny kids experiencing mutations of the same things—some stronger, some weaker?

“Stretch your mouth and say ‘pirate ship.’”

I’m taking pictures everyday. The way the wineglass sweats on the nightstand, the sun peeking through peonies, drunk spills at the bar. I used to be enamoured by the thought that a picture could keep a memory alive, and capture the people inhabiting it in a moment where they will never be the same people again. But I’ve come to realize that, upon flipping through old albums, these glossy photographs haunt me with everything I have ever lost, and all the people I used to be.

I remember a childhood April afternoon, when we flooded in from recess and my blond crush stood by his locker across the hallway and mouthed that he loved me.

“Stick out your tongue and say ‘apple.’”

But I have played these games before, and I knew if you thought about the words and warped your mouth in your mind for long enough, you’d never be bullied again.

I turned away from his smile and headed for class, because I understood that even the ones you want to love will always fit into elephant shoes.

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3

“Remember when you used to put me in the basement and close the door, when I didn’t eat all the food on my plate?”

“You never thought to just turn the doorknob. The door was never really locked.”

“I don’t want to be alone like that again. I don’t want to lose you.”

“I combed your hair until you could comb it yourself. It was always…your hair was always so soft, so long.”

“I wish I had spent more time with you. I wish I
loved you more often.”

“You’re my only daughter.”

“Everytime you made me dinner as a kid, you didn’t speak much. I used to think it was because you had nothing to say. But now I know it was because you didn’t need to say anything. The silence
it was nice.”

“I love you
so much.”

“I remember family Christmas parties and falling asleep in the car. I remember you would carry me into the house and pull my shoes off. You’d let me sleep in your bed. You said I reminded you of mom when you were younger.”

“I wish that your mother and I were
were better parents to you kids.”

“I wished for no other happiness than you loving me as much as you do.”

“Children are meant to outlive their parents.”

“I didn’t think it would be this hard. When you’re gone, people will remember you as my dad. I’ll remember you as chauffeur, chef, superhero,
the man who killed the spider, lifted the heavy boxes, always forgot to bring his coffee to the car but always remembered to bring my bear for me, laughed so loud, sneezed like an elephant, called when he thought it was getting late, shook all my boyfriends’ hands, made the pancakes, the man who said ‘Happy Birthday’
on every birthday. But what now?”

“I pray that you choose a man that treasures you, the way I have.”

“You can’t leave me.”

“I have taught you all that I know. I have lived all my life. It’s my
time to go.”

“How am I supposed to continue if you’re not here?”

“Please don’t love me like this.”