Bonfire Of The Vanities

My old man isn't self-portrait photography's number one fanboy. To say he's got beef with being snapped is an understatement. I don't know if this is out of vanity, or because even in these twilight years he still needs to max out on security because of the coke racket he's still eyeballs deep in. He took me aside once when i was four and with a look on his face i'll never forget said, remember this hijo mio, it's not getting in that's the hard part, it's getting out. I thought he was talking about the front door, which was pretty confusing. Now it all becomes clear.

I shot the below straight from the hip as i pointed to the right and screamed WHAT THE HELL IS THAT at the top of my voice. Straight out of the Andy McNab scrapbook. He never saw it coming.

Anyway, there I was illing with him the other day in his study at home, and told him i wanted a photo of him to take back to my yard and put in a frame.

He turned, and looked at me in the manner of someone placed on the face of this earth for the sole purpose of answering a question they have waited their entire life to be asked. His lip trembled. He was holding it together though. Of course. Came the reply in his thinly-accented south american baritone. And reaching down to the second draw of the desk he pulled it open and fished something out, his voice cracking imperceptibly. Take it.

Really? I replied. I can't take this one i protested, it's such a great photo, i don't want to take your only copy. He shook his head gravely and insisted, No, I want you to have it. 

I can't really explain it. It genuinely felt like some sort of symbolic changing of the guard, my old man giving me a photo of himself - that rare animal - and one he was evidently proud of, with reason, i mean he looks slick. Who doesn't cherish an on-point photo of themselves. It was a little faded and clearly old, with a lovely quality to it. And yet it felt like i was taking something away from him, and it saddened me. I couldn't help imagining it as something he would keep close to him always, in the second drawer down, as a testament to his youth, a memento, to clutch onto as the dark clouds of old age drift across the horizon. It's not like he knows what the fuck a scanner is.

But he insisted. And as i descended the stairs it was remarkable to me how touched i was. 

Despite it only being a photo it felt like much more. I vowed to find a frame worthy of its symbolic meaning, so whenever my father came to visit, it would be there, in pride of place, shining out like a beacon for all to see.

On the way out i saw my mother, and opened my bag to show her. Look what papa just gave me.

A strange pained recognition traced its was across her face. Oh God. She said. 

And she sighed, and i watched her eyes roll alarmingly far back inside her skull. That photo. About 30 years ago your father, for the only time in his life, set foot inside a photo-shop, and had 45 copies of that photo made. Forty five. Your father has had a thirty year love affair with the person in that bloody photo. Our marriage has suffered because of that thing. That bloody profile. That wistful look. That yellow coat, it comes to me in nightmares. He hands them out like sweets. He's trying to get rid of them. There are drawers full of them. In their droves.

No comments:

Post a Comment