Black Short Stories : Inscriptions

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Well-Known Member
Feb 15, 2001
Sales Management

A lone photograph surveyed the empty room. A pale-blue rosary hung at the corner of the framed picture, which gazed across the immaculate hardwood floors and out the French windows at the end of the room. In the picture, a young man, probably somewhere in his mid-twenties, was passionately kissing a young lady who was trying to hold her hat on with one white-gloved hand while squeezing him tightly about the neck. In the background, a dapper black man with an elegant walking cane hung over his arm applauded the young couple.

This room probably belonged to the couple in the picture. The simple black and white picture said so much without speaking a word. It showed the appreciation for young love and the start of a loving relationship. Just the elegant black man clapping his hands and smiling showed that not only did he approve; he approved enough to make a statement about by clapping his hands. The look in his eyes said he had been there before and appreciated the feeling. It made no difference if he was married or single, his gesture was one of recognition and remembrance. It was obvious the young man and woman kissing were happy because the camera lens had captured the loving essence of the scene. It was an unplanned moment now captured for generations to come.

The kiss was not a passionate kiss. There were too many teeth showing as the camera caught the couple between a smile and a pucker. Smile lines showed at the corners of both their mouths. There was an air of play in the picture but its uncomplicated bliss and spontaneity made it romantic.

Although they were the subjects of the photograph, it was hard to guess much about the couple other than they were obviously in love. The sheer abandon of the moment revealed that love was the prime motivator for the couple but that’s all it said. Even their clothes said nothing of who they were or where they came from. The only evidence of a closer relationship was the imprint of a wedding band on the gloved hand, which was trying to hold the hat on the young woman’s head.

Although it was an old picture, there was no way to be certain for it had a certain timelessness to it. Judging from the quality of the print and the absence of flash glare, I guessed the picture was no more than forty years old. The tones covered the complete range of grays from heavy black, pure white and every shade of gray in between. It could have been a prize-winning photograph.

The picture said plenty about the photographer because it of the sense of timing, drama, cropping and connection to the couple. More than likely, the photographer was friend or either the man or the woman or both. The picture made you wonder what had happened after it was taken. Did they live happily ever after? Did they have children? Did their love last? Where are they now? About that time, the landlord came back into the room.
“How do you like the view,” he asked.

We hadn’t noticed the view. We were too busy absorbing the attention drawing photograph. If we had looked out the window, we would have noticed the same brick wall that was the backdrop for the stirring photograph.

“Who are they,” we asked.

“That young fellow doing the smooching is my brother Paul and that lovely lady was Emma, ” he sighed tiredly.

“Did they live here in this apartment,” we asked.

“In deed they did,” he smiled sadly.

“They must have been very much in love.”

“They were.”

“What happened to them, if you don’t mind me asking,” I said.
“Paul was killed in Vietnam about two weeks after I took that picture.”

That’s what the picture couldn’t tell us. It was a just a moment isolated in time.

“What happened to Emma?”

“She’s dead now. She died last year of cancer,” he said.

“That’s terrible,” my wife said. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

“No. It wasn’t, but she had a good life,” he said and turned and left saying, “I’ll be outside when you make up your mind.”

We stood there dumbstruck. What we thought was a love story was a tragedy. We took another glance across the hardwood and then out the window where Mr. Neal waited. Before we left, curiosity drove me to look more closely at the picture. It was in a simple frame. I took the rosary from it and lifted it off the wall. On the back, there was an inscription. It read, “Dear Emma, God knows I am devastated by what happened to Paul. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. Paul never had a chance to see this photograph. I had planned on giving it you two on your first anniversary but that day turned out to be a day that none of us will ever forget. It’s taken me fifteen years of being married to get up the courage to give this to you. Paul was my oldest brother and I promised him that I would do whatever I could to take care of you if anything ever happened to him. I would gladly give you up if Pauly could be here and I could see you guys in love again. I know that I’m not Pauly and I could never be, but I must say thanks for allowing me to love you and comfort you. I may not be the husband you wanted but Pauly will always be our glue. Rob, 1986."

We carefully put the picture back along with the rosary. He had been married to his brother's widow for more than twenty years. Now whatever meaning hid within the picture was there for us to see. Once we reached the outside door, I went over to Mr. Neal and asked him what he really wanted to do with the old home.
“I’m looking for someone to buy it and make it a home like Emma and I did.”

I went back and spoke with my wife and then returned and spoke quietly to Mr. Neal. We I finished we shook hands and looked into each other’s tear filled eyes.

Good Morning Amun-Ra,

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