Slightly Down, Off to the Left

by Foster Trecost

We thought it was just her way. Slightly down, off to the left, picture after picture. No one knew where she looked, no one asked, but it wasn't at the camera; that would've been to make eye contact, and she never did. Nor did anyone else.

Back then we all had a boss. The men worked for the fields, she worked for the men. Everyone was a boss, too: they directed her, she directed us. It seemed we weren't children, just more of her chores.

After church we made our way back up the hill. Terrain flattened and fields became the landscape. We piled out the car and scattered like insects, but wearing Sunday clothes, we knew we couldn't go far. That's when we took pictures.

Years later I went home again. Not much had changed, not much could change. Before leaving I grouped everyone together for a photo, none of us knew it'd be the last with our mother, but maybe she knew, she always knew things. It was her death that reminded me of the film; I still hadn't developed the pictures, but when I did, I saw something I'd never seen before. Right at the camera, eyes wide and filled with love, enough love to make up for the years she never showed it, for the years I wondered if it existed.

Slightly down, off to the left. That was just her way, but I'm thankful it wasn't her only way.