She’s kissing him on the cheek.
He’s playing Rook, maybe, or Poker,
grinning like his favorite team just won the playoffs.
(No, I’m sure now, it’s Rook they’re playing.)
His flannel button-up is stained,
as always. Her purple sleeveless shirt
is the same one she wears on holidays.
They’re still young,
before gray took the place of color,
before stress lines and weathered eyes.
I never saw them kiss when I was growing up, but
I did see the subtle shoulder brushes and
the glances from across ashtrays and crowded houses.
I never doubted their happiness.
Not even once.
She always wore a grin
even while dealing with grandkids
and cooking dinner for twelve.
They couldn’t have known that the cigarette
with smoke rising toward the harsh yellowed ceiling
in her hand
would undo them both.
They couldn’t have known that it would come for him quietly,
after struggle,
on her birthday
and then again for her, a few years later,
near Easter.
My uncle buried that photograph with her.
He says she’s the one who should keep
that memory.


 

Chelsea Stone is a junior majoring in English and is going to graduate school after graduation. She would like to thank Aileen Murphy for her guidance and support.