Here is the second part of my weird and rambling doesn't really go anywhere story called "The Family." Part 1 can be found here. Enjoy.
PhotographsPhotographs are strange things, and much has been written about them: their impermanence, their falseness. A photograph shows the smile, not the “come on just one more. Can you move a little to the left? You hair is in your eye can you move your hair. Say cheese! Say cheese! No look right up here, sweetie, right up here. Look up, honey! Don’t look down.” Or the “thank god that’s done with, where’s the wine?” A photograph can’t capture a smell or even a feeling, only a look of a thing not a thing as it is. Whether it was printed on flimsy, disintegrating, paper or simply stored on flimsy plastic memory cards, or event kept in a cloud, pictures can’t last forever either. The nice thing about photographs is that you can go back and look at them, though, and they last long enough for most people to use them for their purpose. They are worthy substitutes for memories that are, by virtue of our species, piss poor, some more so than others.
She had a good memory for some things. Others, well… She relied on photographs like everyone else. Was She supposed to remember every detail, every thing, every word? Kenning could be useful in this way. When a member of the Family knew enough Magic and was of age, their first test, their first task, was to Ken themselves. It is an odd thing to know oneself truly, deeply. There are things best forgotten, things the mind has closed due to trauma of both physical and mental varieties. To Ken oneself is to relive every broken bone, every sexual encounter, every word spoken, every food tasted. Everything. In about two hours, give or take. It is exhausting. Vomiting is a side effect nearly 97% of the time due to the sheer volume of food consumed, albeit mentally, and the smell. To Ken someone else is a little different, though still a miserable thing to be sure. Delving into one’s own soul memory is just a more intimate and vivid experience.
She would not Ken herself again unless She had to. Unless She NEEDED to relive, to remember, something that She had lost. So She took photos, though She tried her best to not make them just of smiling faces, so She could remember more of the truth then a smile revealed. There were other ways to remember too, non Kenning ways, ways still of Magic, but She didn’t rely on those too much either. She could imprint her memories onto an object if she did it in the moments after they happened. She had done this a few times with very special memories, things she wanted to capture forever and had the opportunity to do so. When She had turned the knob on the door to her new apartment, the first one She had ever owned on her own without Him, she had imprinted the memory on the key. When the apartment manager had asked for both keys back when she moved out 4 months later, She had claimed she’d lost one and paid a fine, in addition to the fees associated with breaking her lease. She kept the key on a chain around her neck and in times of stress would touch it to remember that first feeling of freedom.
She hadn’t used Magic at all when She was with Him, except for the Kenning at the end. She couldn’t quite remember the first time She looked into her daughter’s eyes, heard her daughter laugh. Unless she Kenned herself again, those memories were lost to her, and she would not Ken herself again unless She had to. So she relied on photographs, on videos on her phone, on the imperfect memory of the brain. It was the only time, well… one of the only times, She had really missed the Magic being a part of her life back then. She hadn’t needed it, hadn’t thought she had needed it at any rate, but still She wished it had been there for times like this. Why couldn’t she have imprinted the memory of her child’s first steps onto her shoes, instead of simply recording a shaky video on her phone like a normal person would, a person who didn’t know imprinting was an option, a person not of Magic, of the Family?! It was frustrating, to say the least. There were so many photos. So many. Ugh, why were there so many? She knew. Thankfully they were mostly on her computer. She didn’t actually have to sift through boxes upon boxes of photographs. Can you imagine? Thousands.
She was sorting for a good reason today: She wanted to make an album. A real, proper album like a normal person would do. She had an album of her time with her family, but none of her early childhood with her Màthair. Not a single photograph of her naked backside or her hands curled around her Màthair’s finger or her first steps. Her Màthair didn’t need photographs. Màthair imprinted nearly every moment of consequence in her life and Kenned herself once a year as a matter of course. She knew herself deeply, and could relive her daughter’s first steps whenever she wanted to. Màthair had offered to share memories with her but She had no desire whatsoever to Ken her Màthair. Some people are too complicated to Ken. When she had Kenned herself, She had gotten glimpses of her infancy, but people store memories differently when they are very young. She had not, it needs to be mentioned, relived her own birth.
She looked at the crumpled picture her daughter had drawn sitting next to her on the bed and held it up, the light from her laptop giving the edges a little glow. Maybe she would scan it and make it the cover art for the album. That seemed like a good idea. That was the kind of idea internet mothers had. She never really had any desire to be an “internet mother” but she had to admit that some of them had some good ideas. Those Mormons especially. Why did all these Mormon stay at home internet mothers have such good ideas?! Maybe that was a generalization. Album. Photographs. She knew that He had to be in it, and that was the problem. She would have to look at pictures of Him, of Him and her together, Them, and put them in the album. It was exhausting. It was exhausting just looking at so many pictures, not to mention looking at pictures of Him and trying to figure out which ones to save. That was the problem with digital cameras you just took so many. Thousands. How do you look at thousands and pick maybe 100 to put into an album. It was why she hadn’t done this in the first place, why she had waited so long. If she had only made an album for each year of her daughter’s life as it ended, then perhaps she wouldn’t have to do this monumental task all at once. 5 years?
She held up the crumpled picture her daughter had drawn a third time. She would not forget to make albums again, she would not forget to remember. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then another, and then firmly pressed her hand to the drawing and focused her will. A moment passed, a minute. The lights in the room flickered gently, the bed vibrated slightly. A moment later and the image was imprinted. She found her mouth was dry, which was typical. She reached for the glass of water on her night stand and drank deeply, deeply until the glass was empty. She got up from the bed, walked to the kitchen and filled another glass from the fridge. That she drained just as quickly as the first. While she was in the kitchen anyway, she found herself an apple. A banana would have been better with the vitamins but an apple would do. She bit down hard and sucked the juice slowly, breathing through her nose. At last she felt herself again. It had been a while since she had used Magic. It came to her easily, more easily than she had expected, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t hard. She was sweating. It was done.
Paper was, generally speaking, a poor thing to imprint, but it felt appropriate for the memory. She went back to the room and grabbed the picture and the laptop and brought them both into the den, which is where she kept her scanner. It was under a pile of paperwork underneath the old wooden table that passed for a desk when she needed it to, and after a while it warmed up and the image was scanned. It was done. The picture was now captured, like a photograph, permanently impermanent. As for the actual drawing, she folded it carefully into quarters and placed inside a copy of Keats that she kept in her nightstand. She would remember it there.
Now the photograph of the drawing that had the memory, but not the memory itself, was safe and sound on her computer where She could access it and use it for whatever purposes suited her fancy. She posted it on her social media accounts with a heart emoji and a smiley face along with the words, “Too cute!” She uploaded it to the cloud where she could access it later. She put it in the folder with the other images she would eventually upload to an album. The little grotesques had been cataloged, organized, and filed away. Such is the fate of photographs. The original, the tangible, was kept safe at hand. It was Magic now, or rather there was Magic in it. It would be harder to destroy now, which was another side effect of imprinting, though paper was not ideal. Paper, though imprinted, was impermanent. Like a photograph.