The Polaroid

January 24, 2013
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“Karyn! Karyn!” my little brother reaches his hand up to me, with panic filled eyes.
Our car is hanging off the edge of a bridge. The doors are wide open. I’m on the side closest to the asphalt ground, and my brother Jesse is hanging out of the side of the car.
“I’ve got you Jesse!” I scream, and just manage to grab his small six year old hand. A smile crosses his face, but the panic is still in his eyes. He’s safe now. I have him in my hand.
And then he slips.
“Karyn!” he wails frantically, and I’m barely hanging onto his fingertips.
“Jesse!” I try and maneuver myself so that I can reach him, but it’s no use. The seat belt I’m wearing has me strapped in, and it’s stuck.
“I’ve got you Jesse! Don’t let go!” tears fill my eyes, and I can barely see him. His small fingers slowly slip farther and farther out of my grasp.
“Karyn!” he screams, but I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything but watch as my little brother slips from my hand, and falls 100 feet into the Pacific Ocean.
I can’t do a thing.

* * * * * * *

“Do you want to say anything?” my mother asks me. I shake my head and bite my lip. She sighs, but accepts this. “I’ll get your father to then…” and that’s the whole of our conversation. I don’t talk to her much anymore. Not since the accident. It’s not that she doesn’t try to talk to me; I just don’t try to talk to her. I don’t really want to talk to her. She knows that. She knows why too. It’s her fault. That Jesse’s gone, I mean. If she hadn’t had so much to drink that night, we never would have ended up like we did.
I wouldn’t be preparing for his funeral.
Well, I guess I’m not really preparing. I’m not doing much of anything really. I just sit there… I’ve lost a total of ten pounds since his death, and my hair is starting to break easily. My mom says it’s going to start falling out completely if I don’t start eating. I don’t really care though.
“Can you go in Jesse’s room and grab some of the pictures I have on his bedside?” I hear my mom talking to my dad in the next room. I hear a deep sigh. This must be my dad. Him sighing usually means “I really don’t want to… but since I’m so extremely amazing, I guess I’ll do it anyways”.
“I’ve got it,” I say standing up and walking stiffly to my brother’s room. It’s a pale eggshell color. Nothing in his room is remotely colorful, but that’s how we had to keep it. Jesse was autistic, and bright colors hurt his eyes. Most of my closet consisted of similar colors, because I was around him so much, and I wanted to be extra careful.
On his bed stand stood three pictures, one of Jesse, one with all of our family in it- mom, dad, me, and Jesse- and one of just me and Jesse.
In all the pictures he had a giant smile that melted hearts. He couldn’t understand most of what anyone said, but he understood when someone said “Say cheese” that he was to smile. He loved taking pictures. He could actually operate a camera extremely well too. On his left wall was a small bulletin board with dozens of pictures on it. They were all taken by Jesse.
“Karyn?” I hear my mom call, but I ignore it. I want to find Jesse’s camera. He had a small vintage Polaroid camera that I bought him for his birthday. I open up several of his drawers and find nothing. I go to his closet and search the small organized boxes that line the shelves, but it isn’t there either.
“Karyn? What are you doing!” my mom comes into the room and finds boxes strewn all over the floor. “I asked you to grab some pictures, not destroy his room! We will have visitors over at any moment!” I’m still ignoring her, and my search suddenly becomes frantic. Where is his camera?
“Where is it?” I turn and ask her. She studies me for a moment before answering.
“Where is what?”
“The camera I bought Jesse for his birthday.”
She is silent.
“Where is it Lillian?” I scream at her, using her first name. “Give it to me now!”
She takes a small step backwards, and her mouth opens slightly. She stares at me in shock, as if I have hit her or something.
“Don’t you use that tone of voice with me young lady!” she says sternly, regaining her composer. “I am the adult, and you are the child, not the other way around!”
“You did something with it, didn’t you?” I ask. She doesn’t answer.
I push past her and leave the room, walking into my dad’s office.
“Dad, where is the camera I bought for Jesse for his birthday?”
“Oh, that old thing? Your mom gave it to me to throw out the other day. But I actually forgot about it until just now…” he reaches onto the top of his bookshelf and pulls down the camera.
“Do you want to-“I didn’t even care what his question was. I grabbed the camera and left his office.
I pass my mom and she looks angrier when she sees the camera. “Where did you- Dave!” she marches into dad’s office and begins to yell at him. I don’t stay long enough to listen though. I go into my room, grab a small bag that I have had packed for weeks, and walk out of the front door. My mom didn’t notice. She was too busy yelling at my dad. My dad didn’t notice. He was too busy making excuses. No one noticed as I walked out. That’s how I wanted it though.
I slip the Polaroid camera around my neck, and continue to walk. I don’t stop until I reach the bus station that is five blocks away from my house. I don’t look at where any of the buses are going. I see a small white bus in one of the back parking spaces, and that’s the one I get on. The bus passes my house and I see my mom standing on the front lawn, flustered and lost looking. I laugh. I’m done with her. I’m done with it all.

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