The Photograph

He never was able to place himself entirely in his universe of pictures

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

The way he knew his face was still there, all the time. The world was the same; that much was certain. Yet he never was able to place himself entirely in his universe of pictures. It was so hard to fit the other two together and so hard to separate them.

Once the photograph he had taken of the man he is now seeing, the one he has put to one side, was with him always—the only image he could have given, the only picture he was never able to give to anyone else—how do I refer to these things about his life with the girl, too, that were also mine and the girl’s eyes, hers and his? If these are the only images I can call them, how do they explain me? Why did I have to think of them? I thought of them, and their names, so long ago, with their separate images of themselves. What else do I call ‘em when I can no longer call them what they can’t tell, but what they have to call what’s gone? They are a part of the picture, are they not? Not the parts made from parts and their bits and pieces and pieces and pieces of them.

He didn’t know, at the time, and his father wouldn’t say so, how they met. Why he told them the name of his mother—he does not believe in naming the people, even of the faces, in the photograph he made of her, the face he saw in the street, with her small eyes and her dark lips and her dark hair tied back. When they met the first time, he told them her name. He told them his name, again. They both have been with her since he and the girl were babies; they have been inseparable in the family since she was a child, but now that the girl’s eyes have opened out and been bright, he has come to think of her the way a father thinks of his daughter, and only one son. She has a husband. A mother and a son. They are inseparable. And in the absence of what might have a son, a father does not try to call her what is called. Only a mother may do so, who is not called, at least in the absence of what might have a son or name.

The photo that has been the subject of his life with the girl is something he kept when he was with her, that she has kept from him since she discovered the photo had been taken by him. It is the one she looked at a lot, as they stood at the shop counter, waiting to buy some sort of loaf of bread or some sort of bagel for their afternoon. But even without the girl’s eyes, which are a colour that was meant for her, because she looked at him like a cat when it’s put in with food, they had to stand for an hour or an hour and a half on a very small, crowded sidewalk and look at a photograph that was taken just for the photo. It was taken in a bright way, though he could not tell if the black was a formal or light or green. Or the white, the colours that were black or white, or the pale, the colours that looked as if water was running round them or clouds had entered the room in a vast sky. But whatever the reason, the girl, when she looks at the photograph, has something of the girl—that’s the story he hears from her later that night. A moment later, he comes to believe—that there was something, before it occurred, that had a meaning.

In the morning before his father took him, there was more silence than he could bear. But he could not help it. He heard the children’s voices, in the village. He was so tired and hungry, and he had run into nothing that could be eaten that would be even a snack. Even when he was sitting with his mother, leaning against the wall in the early hours of the morning, her hair covered in a towel, she would catch him looking into her room. And when he would find his way through the crowd in the village, how it was different—how the place was filled with women who came from miles from the city, and came to the shop; and the children, and the women, all had the same look that he had seen in his mother’s face. And the feeling—he did not quite understand what it was that held him here. Maybe he did understand, but he didn’t know it.

What he understood was that in the village, and in the other one, the village he had been wandering in, the women who came to the shop at all hours were different from those in the city, in that they spoke of the mysteries of nature more than they told of human beings. For instance—he could understand what was going through Alice’s head when she was disturbed or angry.

It was quite clear that something was going on in the village.


Editor’s Notes

Written by AI, generated as a sample during around step 200,000 of training my postmodern fiction model by fine-tuning gpt-2 774M.


Capitalized first letter. Removed a few orphan words after the story. Added a line return to break up a long paragraph.


Title derived from the generated text

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