The Photograph

Her face–the bottom half, the only part those after us will ever see–a thin sliver of a crescent moon. Behind the cloud that shields her it dims, but I will not let it out.
Smile,” I plead. She does not see the fear, the slowing of my heart–a train forced to stop in the undergrowth of a forgotten track–the beads of sweat forming above my brow.
My jack-o-lantern smile is meant to mimic but it only scares her.
“Not like that,” I plead. “Fewer teeth.” The hot luminescence of the angry sun creates diamonds of her crown and I try to capture it.
The chocolate brown ringlets spun with warm honey? It should be preserved.
But she moves, and her smile shifts and ruins.
Anger boils over and escapes me and I frown at her, my monstrous frown. I will apologize, but I must get it out first.
Fine. I don’t even care. Don’t smile. Not like that. That’s a terrible smile. It looks fake.
A hollow pain that I ignore urges me–just take that one. The not smiling. It is real.
It is truth.
“Please,” I plead. “Just once. I’ll give you candy!”
She tries. It quivers and she is cold but she tries.
Perfect.
Later we gaze at it. In the album without us it says that she is happy.
One day she will feel a soft wind and the blistering heat of a Spring sun and she will remember pretending to be happy and she will remember how I pretended.
Later still the photograph–faded and bruised, the smile obscured by age–will lie. But those that come after will wonder about us about our perfection about our eternal happiness captured in a perfect smile.
When I am gone it will say that we were here once.
It will tell the lies that we cannot.

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