“F-Stop”

There are several moments in her repertoire. Moments, shaken from continuity, that seem to reside in a tense of their own. Memory has always overtaken her with its intensities. And yet this particular memory seems to float free, simply to be.

She’s about five, sometime before the flood, dressed in sweatshirt and oxfords, seated on the very top of a stepladder, her feet resting on the step below. Behind her, the sky, white and fathomless. Below, seated demurely by any standards, is her friend Gayle.

If they were playing dress-up, Gayle certainly got the best of the deal. She is wearing a long skirt and, over her shoulder, a colorful woven belt from South America. Gayle has had rheumatic fever and is newly allowed out of her house, which is probably why she is sitting on the bottom step. Odd, though, because when she remembers the moment, she is always sitting on the bottom. Gayle towers above her, regal and pale, and she envies her illness, her vantage, her view. This is the past, then, irrevocable, so why do I stick to her version? Already she’s adjusting the f-stop to let in the light of revision. Already she’s climbing that ladder to see what she saw, as though she won’t mind if I lose her.