Lindsey Charlotte

The Portrait

Resting on a mantel lies a glossy photo in a thin spruce frame. 

A family of four glows against the mottled blue backdrop of a mall photo kiosk; two parents stand behind a young boy and an older daughter. 

The father’s smile is well worn into his face, and his gelled hair is graying at the temples. The mother’s hazel eyes glow with pride, and her perfectly manicured hand rests on her son’s shoulder. The son beams, displaying a gapped smile and a houndstooth sweater. The teenage daughter, wearing a starched collared shirt bearing the seal of a prestigious university, folds her hands in her lap. 

This photo sits in the family room; a family room only by name. In it, a couch with taught cushions and perfectly fluffed pillows sits atop a freshly vacuumed carpet, while the mantel gathers a dusty sheen over its white-painted wood.

The father is in the adjacent kitchen, cooking. Getting an early start on dinner, he measures out ingredients with tense shoulders and a practiced precision. Today, he must scale down his recipe. 

His oven is already preset, and used dishes are stacked in a neat pile by the sink. He is a well oiled machine. 

His smile lines lay dormant as he dices tomatoes. A strand falls in his face, and he goes to gel his hair again.

A short car ride away, the woman sits at her desk, fists clenched so hard the chewed-down nubs of her nails leave an impression on her palms. The glass window of her office displays the kingdom she presides over, perfect rows of cubicles. 

A man she sat with at lunch, discussing profit projections, walks past her window and pretends he doesn't see a tear fall out of her tired, reddened eyes. 

The young boy sits solemnly at his desk. His teacher drones through a lesson as his closest friends giggle and pass notes. When addressed, his face breaks into a joker grin, and his friends observe that his teeth are growing in. He is wearing a black sweater with his school uniform. 

When no one is looking, his face resumes its stoic frown. This child, whose school administrators are talking in hushed tones, just stares forward, occasionally remembering to smile.

You wouldn’t be able to find the girl if you tried. 

She isn’t in her room, listening to music, or at the movie theater. She isn’t running on the track with the skill only years of training can achieve. She isn’t playing the blues or laughing with friends or sitting alone and crying in her new college dorm. She isn’t attending class with knotted hair and deep purple eyebags. She’s not convulsing in sobs while writing on a torn piece of lined paper.

Not anymore

The photo, still glossy, tugs at the dad as he cleans the family room. He carefully dusts it off before hurling it to the floor. And he can’t bring himself to sweep up the shattered pieces.


Envoyé: 18:39 Fri, 22 March 2024 by : Lindsey Charlotte age : 16