Trapped In Pictures

I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there and the moss.

I’ll tell you first off, there are no ghosts. I mean the ones that purportedly wait at the end of long corridors for you to catch a glimpse of them and burst a blood vessel. Anyone who believes in them either has had too much LSD at one go, or lives with a bunch of emo-kids. I’ll tell you what kind really exists. The kinds that live—no, the cliché stops here. They don’t live “inside” you, they live in pictures instead.

I hate, absolutely hate going through pictures. While the world sees happy times with friends and family, I can almost smell the fakeness, percolating through the photo like bleach left for too long.

You can insert your own adaptation of a loner joke here, or a loser’s story, whichever you like, because I’m not offering any. I can save that baby up for my multi-million dollar book that shall break records on eBay. Ugh. F-i-n-e, whatever. But I’m only willing to go as far as explaining why ghosts remain stuck in these portals of pretense. It’s because all the pictures I see on sleepovers in albums, or at 3am on Facebook only show me moments that never were. And perhaps, this nagging feeling has more to do with me, than anyone else.

I suppose you have had your share of life-changing moments? You’d understand then. That feeling of discord which eerily plays in perfect pitch to everything you have constructively learnt before. There was a particular picture I clicked of myself that I cannot get over. It haunts, because that person is not me. Well, it is me, but you know where I’m going with this. She’s the kind of ghost you expect will slyly smile when you stare into your mirror too long. You hang onto this particular picture too long, and you can almost see the lips twitching into a sneer. Look at you, she says, a construct of what you think the world sees you as. It creeps the living jordambs out of me. (Jordambs is anything you want it to be, by the way. I’ve a set record in the department of Making up Words to Sound Enigmatic). My physician once asked me, being the pompous wind-bag that he gets paid to be, whether I particularly enjoyed these “visions”. If I had sold that bestseller by now, I would have had money to buy a brick, I thought to myself. And hurl one fat brick right through his teeth- all manicured like a bloody picket fence. I have always had a nagging suspicion although, that I may entertain certain violent fantasies. But my effeminate doctor is not what this is about, so I’ll lead you back to my picture. If I had to place it, I think I would place it between puking on my host’s shoes and proceeding to clean it up with some red wine. Or if you want the normal details, I’d place it at 17.

My hair looks like I was born with one side of my head perennially crushed, and my lipstick is a little…well…to put it politely, whore-ish. But it’s my face; it’s like a work of art. Honest! It really is. I won’t tell you which work of art, but it is. It’s the most beautiful I have ever been. And it’s her that keeps staring at me silently through the picture. I can’t help but go back to that picture, dog-eared by now, each time I have nothing to do. I can count the number of fine creases in the picture by now, but that picture still possesses me like none else. Through the years, she’s said different things to me. She’s called me a traitor, a failure, an egotistical bumface and a creekshaw. Personally, I told her to stuff her creekshaw right up her tight behind.

But there was something once that her eyes told me. It was almost like they were pointing at me in a defiant, angry move and saying “You. What have you done to me? Where am I?”. And that’s what gets to me, years after it was taken. That each time I look at it, a part of me goes into her, seeping in like water to a wrinkled raisin. And each time she takes, she gives me a growing bag of accusations, declarations, admonitions and advises to keep with me instead. So that as I grow older, I grow a lot colder. I was 17 when I first thought of minting millions through a crappy bestseller. I’m a whole lot older now, and I haven’t done a rat’s ass to reach that place. Her voice grates on my nerves mostly, but she also falls into a soft whisper, when she talks of what could have been, of where she could have taken me, had I allowed her to. I should probably really look for a roommate now, I think. I can’t help but think of her though, through the archaeology of layered photos on my work table, looking at me.

It was the look of a person who is cursed with having foreseen history and stands at a city-square, hurriedly pointing towards something with his granite finger. I know the look of it; I can recognize that anywhere, just like I can make out each of my ex-lovers just by their fingers. But the ghost remains there, as the picture continues to become grainer, with those eyes that at once both beseeched, and accused.

Shruti Rao