I ripped the picture as soon as I was able to, and threw it away. But I couldn’t unsee it, as a killer who can’t unsee the gaze on his victim’s eyes right before the life seeps out of them. I wasn’t embarrassed that someone would find out that I had a picture of Aunt Rhea; I was embarrassed on her behalf. The picture cheapened her, and it failed to show the side of her that I knew. That I loved.
My palm began to sweat profusely as I held the picture, smearing the “to” and “from” inscription on the back, making the glossy part sticky. Aunt Rhea had recently separated from her abusive husband, the father of her three children. This act of liberation wasn’t well-received by the rest of her siblings. To them, marriage was “’till death do us part” even if the death that parted the “us” was induced at the hands of the husband himself.
The black and white picture showed Rhea’s sweet eyes, full of naïveté, the false hope that caring about what others thought would make her a better person. A few years later, another man came into her life. He was barren, and ready to settle down, according to what he told her. A fourth child came of this temporary union; not out of holy conception, but rather out of wholly deception. She was once again single; one year older, one child wiser.
Rhea’s house had been my home after my parents abandoned me, but before they reclaimed me. This was what I remembered while I lied awake in bed; the smell of that house, the scent of Rhea. Those kind eyes couldn’t be unseen, even after I ripped her picture into oblivion, or when I think of her today.
Jose Oseguera is an L.A.-based
writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a
primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the
people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share.
His writing has been featured in The Esthetic Apostle, McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the ‘Best of the Net’ award (2018 and 2019) and the ‘Pushcart Prize.’ He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection ‘The Milk of Your Blood.’