A Thousand Pictures

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They say it takes a thousand words to describe a picture, but I think that’s complete bull. Really, it’s the other way around; it takes a thousand pictures to describe a word. For an example, take the word pizza. Whenever pizza is spoken, I get images of bloody sauce and molted cheese, of fluffy chef hats, of cozy parlors, and everything that pizza could possibly entail. The word pizza is heavy with pictures. And that’s just the word pizza! Think of words like love and hate and all that clichéd whatnot, think of the pictures that those words bring, and when I think of it like that it is a miracle to me that the world doesn’t fall under all that weight.

Sometimes I just try to take the words that bring the good pictures, but it always leads to the bad stuff. Take the word beach. Mama used to love the beach. I get the pictures of the sand, I get just perfectly the sun torching the waves, but I also get Mama. Mama, the woman who would dive into the water, her body disappearing in the white, and I would scream, because I was little, because to me Mama was eaten by the sea. But she would remerge, slippery, her face washed with embarrassment. Shut up, she told me, I’m still here.

This word gets me: bedtime. Bedtime is a horrible word, and I get pictures of black, black, black, awful, never-ending black. The silence too, could not be grappled with a picture but I assure you at bedtime it is there, that silence I could never quite get used to. Mama would squeeze my hand, and tell me its ok, I’m safe in my own house, I’m safe in my own house. But she lies, that woman, she lies. I am scared, oh Mama, I am scared. I am not safe in my own house.


One day it happened. Mama wasn’t there. I knew, I knew it would happen, one day. It’s the circle of life. Death, life, death grows into the land, the land becomes life. But I never thought Mama would become the waves.


Let me do your hair, Mama had said. Ok, Mama. You can do my hair.

She braided my hair, her hands shook. Her nails are long, painted red, and they grated the back of my head. She told me how she used to braid her doll’s hair, and I felt sorry for the dolls.

Sweetie, she said, I’m sorry I was drunk last night.

Its ok, I lied.

Sometimes, I just can’t help myself.

Mama, I’ll help you, I said, you don’t have to help yourself.

Mama sighed, her hands stroked my head. All done, she whispered. All done.

I looked at Mama then. Around her eyes was red like her nails. Red lines crisscrossed her arms, red lipstick, red pain, Mama was a woman of red.


That day, Mama and I went to the beach. We live in the apartment a couple blocks away from the beach so we walk. Even though the day is stony-gray, Mama wears her bikini. Men whistle, and I remember how much I hate men. But Mama loves them, even more than me.

At the beach, Mama lays a blanket. We go real near the waves, but Mama loves the wetness. Mama stretches out as the waves bite at her legs, her wrists. She turns to me, and says she loves the beach.

I know, Mama.

Mama beckons me to come, and I lay next to her. I feel her smooth skin to mine, the wet is cold, but I am with Mama.

You don’t have to be so afraid, she says.

I trace Mama’s outline in the sand, her curves, the wet sand breaks as my finger cuts along Mama, until the next wave comes, and Mama is gone.


Words are so important. With words, I can make my Mama. With words, Mama can be a thousand pictures. That’s the trick I learned, to use the words to become the pictures. When I got older, the more and more the words swarmed in my head. The more and more I lost Mama.


It happened like this. One day Mama and I went to the beach and Mama flew. We walked the way to beach, Mama in her bikini, she was so light that day. We got there, and the waves were so white it’s like they were heaven. These waves, they were sharp, and they made Mama fly. Mama toppled into the water as soon as we got there, the white became her, the sea ate her whole. The redness of Mama ebbed away. She broke away.

Mama never come back, she was part of the waves. They were her wings. She was an angel, in the water; she flew, strong, farther and farther with each stroke of her wings. I could hear them through the water, through the waves she flew faster and free, she was happy, she was laughing, she was free!

Mama never came back to me. I had to let her go.


Ok, it’s time to come true. Mama died and I don’t really know if she became an angel. The circle of life never told me about angels, sometimes it’s real hard, ya know, to think that they exist. But that’s bull, don’t you see, don’t you see, Mama really always was an angel because that’s what the word is.





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