Doing the Dishes

I have three pictures of my parents: one of her, one of him, one of them together. Her: she is on a European train in the 80s. She’s young and scrawling on a newspaper, reclined with her other hand resting on an invisible shelf in the air. His is a polaroid from Jersey. He’s on the beach in aviators looking down into the camera so the sky is big and blue passed his shoulders. There’s a thin weave of cirrus clouds crowding the lifeguard hut on the Philadelphia Ave in Lavallette. He’s smiling but not showing teeth. The photo of them together is pale and small — about the size of a credit card. He’s in a suit, she’s in a flowery dress and white hat. It’s their wedding day in Frankfurt, DE. They eloped and only had two guests: coworkers from the embassy there as witnesses. 

The last photo sits on a sallow plastic shelf above the sink. They’re kissing and they fill the entire frame. When do dishes, the picture is eighteen inches from my face–direct eyeline. I almost never look at it— or rather, I look but don’t see— which is the reason I never put up posters or pictures in the places I live. There is no surer way to take something special and normalize it to the point of obscenity. This is why I don’t like to say ‘I love you.’ Not because I don’t feel it or want to, but so the phrase doesn’t become invisible like the objects we surround ourselves with for comfort.

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