When I was 10 and my mom had re-married and was gone on her honeymoon, I knew we were leaving.
Strange things have always touched my heart;
the shady corners of buildings at the end of the day when the sun feels indecisive, empty rooms, and lonely feet.
A big, red-headed man lives in the bathroom and though he has no feet I hope he isn’t lonely with us gone; I hope the rooms stay warm and full. I hope he’s kind enough to wake the kids up on time for Saturday morning cartoons like he sometimes did for me.
I remember thinking that thought one night and getting out of bed to watch grandma pray from her open doorway. She didn’t kneel like you’d think someone would; she stood tall and straight with her hands intertwined and close to her nose - her eyes shut tight. Bobbing up and down on the balls of her feet she’d whisper tiny words to the shrine of saints she had arranged, just so, on the top of her dresser.
Usually, when I felt restless just before bed, I’d try to get her attention by crawling into her place in bed and asking her questions or raising the volume of her television a little higher, letting the dog out when I knew he wasn’t supposed to be; anything to get her to stop her whispering and pay attention to me. She never did though.
But right then, I just wanted to watch her.
I closed my eyes and tried to see if I could picture the scene exactly as I had seen it. If I had to, could I paint a perfect picture?
Realizing that I couldn’t, made me anxious. I opened my eyes and found grandma’s staring back at me. She smiled and little wrinkles formed around her eyes. When she had closed them again I went back to my room and grabbed my small, child’s camera (purple and shaped like a doughnut).
I went around taking pictures of our rooms.
Would they still be ours when we left?
Whenever all I had left was the bathroom to capture, grandma had already turned off most of the lights and grandpa was still taking a shower. She called me in to bless me before she went to sleep and I decided to lay down beside her for a while. She was smoothing my hair back and I was just beginning to fall asleep when grandpa finally came in all fresh and steamy. I got up, kissed them both goodnight and shut their door on my way out.
I turned on the light in the bathroom and tried to find the right angle through my purple doughnut, but it was harder than it had been with the other rooms. The steam from my grandpa’s shower had fogged up all the mirrors and made the place too hot to comfortably stand in. My blurry reflection bounced off the mirrors and made me dizzy.
The big red-headed man wouldn’t come out if it was too bright, right? I wouldn’t be able to complete my collection of photos without the big red-headed man. So, I turned off the light and stepped outside into the hallway. I looked down at my bare feet; the only light in the entire house, the light from my room, was peeking from my cracked door and highlighting my toes. Usually they’d seem lonely, but somehow they weren’t.
I held the camera out and away from me instead of up and close to my eye. With my arm stretched out in front of me, inside the bathroom, I pressed the button. There was a bright, white flash, and then a burst of colors as my eyes adjusted. A remaining smudge of red was in the upper corner of the bathroom, just above the shower, when it was almost completely dark again.
When I had the film developed, the picture I had taken of the bathroom was the only one that was missing. I like to think the big red-headed man kept it for himself.