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The Caption

A boy is walking home from school. I watch him once again take the familiar path down the street and then to the left, through the gate, and back again on the road. I suck in my breath as he reaches an intersection and begins to cross the road. But no cars come, and he is alright, though he did not look both ways. I always told him to, but not much stuck with him. In one ear and out the other, they always said. Now he is almost home; he continues on the sidewalk along the road, and eventually reaches the house. I had always loved the house. It was perfect; not too big, not too small. Just right for a typical family of four. I liked the neighborhood, too. There was Granny next door. She wasn’t really related to us, but we always called her Granny. She was there next door when we moved in, and has been there ever since. She had always been good to me, I reflect, and I realize how much her presence had meant to me.
By now the boy is inside the house. Granny and the other neighbors are nowhere to be seen. I wait for a while, and then return home.
Meanwhile, the boy walks up to his room. His name is Benjamin. Some people call him Ben. His sister had sometimes called him Benji, just to tease him. He used to get mad at her for it, but not anymore. He throws his backpack down on the couch, and goes upstairs to his bedroom, taking the stairs two at a time. On the way to his room, however, he passes a closed door, and stops. He turns around, staring at the door. No one has been in this room for a while. He would be the first. He reaches out for the doorknob, but instead of turning it he just stands there for a moment. At last, he opens the door. The room itself is pretty much the same, he thinks, as he looks around at the brightly colored walls, and down to the floor at the neon rug. There is still stuff everywhere, just piled up, in no order at all. No one has even started to sort through it. No one has been in the room.
Ben takes a few more steps into the center of the room, and sits down lightly on a fluffy bed, which is still unmade. Then he notices the picture on the nightstand. He has never seen it before, but that is no surprise; it was always hard to see anything in this room. He carefully picks it up, feeling almost as if the room is aware of his presence, and doesn’t want him to alter the chaos. He wipes the dust off of the glass, revealing two teenagers, himself and a girl. Their arms are around each other’s shoulders, in a companionable manner, and they smile happily at the camera. Her mouth is half open in a laugh, but she still looks pretty. He has already outgrown her by this picture. He stands a few inches taller than her, and has an air of strength about him, as if he is to protect her from some unknown challenger. But he hadn’t. This picture is a lie. Nevertheless, Ben slides the photo out of the frame and stuffs it in his pocket. He wipes his eyes as he leaves the room, making sure everything is the same as it was when he entered.
When Ben finally leaves the house again, I can tell he is different, but I am not sure how, or why. Then I see that he has something in his hands. He studies it as he walks. I look closer, and see a picture of me, and him. I remember this picture; it is from the summer of my junior year. I wonder how he has gotten this picture. I decide to follow him again, but realize he is only getting the mail. As Ben disappears into the house again, I lie back, still thinking about the picture.
This time, Ben goes straight to his room after bounding up the stairs. He grabs a pen, and scribbles a caption on the back of the photo. Then he goes back to his sister’s room, and puts the photo back in the frame. As he leaves the room for the last time, he looks back at the picture, and the unseen caption. “I love you Sophie. I will never forget.”





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