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Israel Cullins pulls into a narrow driveway of a two bedroom house, at half past midnight. His stomach churns. The turkey was remarkably dry this year, compared to previous Thanksgiving dinners with his animated white bread family. Aside from his sister Dana, Israel’s family was a run of the mill, Brady Bunch. He exits the car, walks up the driveway, and opens the door, leaving the trail of his mothers scent from when she embraced her only half an hour ago. The sound of the lock turning in the front door reminds him to feed Chance, the aged and lethargic, cat. Israel trudges up the stairs, imagining what tonight’s dinner would have been like had he brought a date. Maybe the brunette he sees at the post office once a week? Or even the strawberry blonde woman who works at wolf camera and develops his pictures thrice a month? Would they have taken pictures? His mother would have liked either of the two, Israel never brought anyone home.
He yawns silently. Chance is somewhere lurking around the corner, slithering against the walls, as if he hadn’t been there since he was a kitten. Israel shoves his hands in his pockets, and sits on his queen size bed, that has never embraced another body besides his own. A thought crosses his mind; his mortgage payment is due the next morning. Most “9 to 5’ers” get paid on Fridays. The moment he receives his check from an advertising agency, he’ll be emptying his own pockets to line those of another. Another who is wealthier, more motivated, less alone than Israel, will use the mortgage payment to purchase whatever affluence they desire. He was never concerned about where his money went, so long as it meant he could maintain his own monotonous lifestyle.
A decade ago, Israel was prescribed Adderral, 40 mg, twice a day. Doctors diagnosed him with ADHD early. Six years of consuming half his prescription, and selling the rest to peers had taken its toll on him. He no longer felt his attention was deficit, nor hyperactively in disorder. In fact, he lacked the drive to be enthused about anything “un-photography related”, and at times he even detested the commercial photos he was directed to capture. As far as he was concerned, everything else meant nothing at all, nothing else meant everything. Israel figured life had always been there, and always would be, moments in his camera were priceless, and unattainable after the moment. Pictures were the very stitches that formed the quilt of his existence.
His mother had given him a Tupperware of the usual menu, turkey, dressing, macaroni, and a gigantic slice of fruit cake. He’d already schemed to substitute breakfast with that meal, with a glass of wine instead of OJ. Israel fell asleep with broccoli in the crevices of his incisors, and awoke with intense indigestion, although neither of them have much to do with the other.
He stumbled out of bed to do the humdrum routine similar to that of every morning, brushing of the teeth, etc. He tripped down the stairs, reheated the leftovers and poured some Merlot in a coffee mug. Unlike most men who awake in the morning and have breakfast on days they are not required to work, Israel did not read the newspaper. He found news redundant, as most liberals do, and thought the photographs were of very low quality. Reading the newspaper was only for critiquing the work of a less talented photographer. For him, it was mere sport, which he didn’t indulge in often. Instead, he flipped through the multitudes of magazines he always had piled on top of the kitchen table. Beside pictures in these magazines, he would write notes, what he would’ve done, what was a good concept, or how this photographer should be fired.
After “breakfast”, Israel skipped the shower, and went to the post office to see the brunette, and also get his mail. He had already been once that week, and knew there was no new mail for him, but he needed a proper excuse to see her. Israel and this brunette were married. There were pictures of him and her on their wedding day all over his home, and they had twin sinks in the bathroom where they brushed their teeth every morning. They both worked during the day, and at night they ate dinner while flipping through magazines, and debating which stamp looked the best on formal letters. She was content with his practicality, and enjoyed the awkward silences after dinner when they prepared for bed each night. Israel was madly in love, and happily married to this no-name brunette, in his mind. In reality, her name was Miranda, and she was a 24 year old college student.
Weeks went by, as they always do, and will continue to do, and Israel had finally schemed a way to coax Miranda into bringing his fantasy into fruition. Israel was going to ask her what stamp would appear best on a formal letter. When approached with this inquiry Miranda initially, stared at Israel blankly, but then something amazing happened. “Aren’t you the guy who comes in here 5 times a week and leaves with no mail 4 out of those 5 times?”, she said. Israel was defeated, she hadn’t answered the question, and the fantasy became slightly fuzzy in his thoughts.
“I’m waiting for something”, he replied.
They chatted for a moment, about whether employees at the post office actually go “postal”, and how all photographers are stereotyped to be starving artists. During this conversation, is when he noticed her name was not “the brunette woman”, but Miranda. To prevent himself from daydreaming in the midst of conversation, he cut the conversation short and walked to his car. With a feeling of accomplishment, Israel revved the engine, and drove home.
When Israel finally got settled, he sat and checked his voicemail like he had on previous days, and listened to the expected message from his mother. She was inviting him to dinner with the family and his sister’s new mate, The Olive Garden was the chosen restaurant. The Cullins family was notorious for random family outings, and dinners once a week. Every outing was for a specific reason, to discuss a specific topic, or for a specific celebration. Israel wasn’t sure if he was prepared for two family gatherings in the span of three days, but nonetheless, decided to attend.
Sunday night came sooner than expected, and Israel found himself, yet again, dreaming of him and Miranda’s life together, and how they’d recycle light bulbs by painting them for decoration. He drove to The Olive Garden in silence; he couldn’t possibly be interrupted in light bulb painting by whatever random nonsense was on the radio. Upon arriving at the Olive Garden, Israel said goodbye to his wife, and entered the restaurant.
The hostess knew his face from previous dinners, and pointed to the round table towards the back of the restaurant. Israel immediately noticed his mother’s short blonde hair in the distance, and headed towards the table full of his closest relatives. He sat in the only empty seat beside his mother and father, across from Dana, his sister. While greeting everyone, thoughts of his marriage began to enter his mind and he found himself looking through magazines with Miranda again. If at all possible, this fantasy seemed more profound and attainable than any other daydream. He could see the deep browns in her hair, the slope of her nose, and the freckles on the right side of her face. Every detail of Miranda was exposed for the first time, clear as day, as if he were directly in front of her.
Within seconds, Israel’s thoughts were interrupted by a hand projecting towards him, insisting it be shaken. Immediately, he knew whose hand this was. He had painted recycled light bulbs with this hand, skimmed through magazines, and brushed teeth with this hand. These five fingers belonged to none other than his beloved Miranda, his wife who had been sitting next to his sister. Mentally, Israel snapped a picture of this moment, and critiqued it. It was a candid shot, full of emotion and irony, had he not been in it, Israel would’ve provided positive notes for this photograph.
Miranda and Dana lived together in an apartment. Miranda was in college for journalism, and worked at the post office to pay for tuition. Israel’s wife was his sister’s very serious long term girlfriend. They’d been dating for two years now, and decided it was time for each to meet the others family, and Miranda was first. Within the same weekend, Israel was married and divorced, the best picture he’d never seen.