Photos We Never Took in 1998
Searching for my birth certificate or a long-lost prescription for narcotic allergy tablets, I found my Swatch of yesteryear, cloaked in sticky resin and dissolved bands. My roommate always had to buckle it for me. Sometimes I carried an antique pocket watch that was semi-functional. One night it snagged on the beer case at Buddy’s Mart, after the candle festival, roping me between tropical wine coolers and Miller Lite. For a duo who dressed up two nights a week minimum, with an abundance of accessories, we took few photos aside from the cats: Pandora on the dining room table with a background of fog, Agnes entangled in a roll of polyester rickrack. My roommate smoked indoors and crushed out every cigarette like a French nanny. More often than not, I was deep in a primitive version of fin-de-siècle cosplay. So today, reading Station Eleven in double masks at a taped-off table in a room that seats five hundred, a winter cloud tossing nonpareils onto the windowsill, I wonder if the beer case at Buddy’s Mart was attempting some kind of warning. To my roommate: avoid speedboats, speedballs, degree-granting programs in Denmark, fad diets involving canned pumpkin, greased hinges, yacht rock while intoxicated. To me: a year’s worth of aggravating horoscopes, courtroom décor of the late 1970s, postcards arriving from unknown origin, heavy-breathing colleagues, math beyond comfort zone, dreams where my roommate was trapped on the other side of the glass.
Mary Biddinger’s flash fiction and poetry have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, DIAGRAM, Thrush, On the Seawall, and Southern Indiana Review, among others. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron and NEOMFA program, and her poetry collection, Department of Elegy, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2022.
Art: Untitled, Encaustic on Wood Panel, 2016 by Chizu Omori.