In class we read “Funeral Blues” by W.H. Auden. “Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun” reads the boy directly across from me. Then he looks up and asks, almost angrily, as though haven bitten into a rotten apple: “how can you dismantle the sun?”
Some time ago I taped up a photograph of my brother on my bedroom wall. The photograph was one of the many copies he’d made for a class project and left all over the floor. I carefully added it to the drawings and print-outs of poems I’d added to my wall over the previous weeks. My mother had mentioned this collage only once, and that was to voice her disapproval. “Tengo ya demasiado para que conviertas tu habitación en un museo,” she’d said. “I have enough already, for you to go and turn your room into a museum.” But on this occasion the photograph of my brother, smiling in a garden rendered unidentifiable by our elderly printer’s manic bursts and stutters, made her pause.
“You really love him, don’t you?”
I looked at her, perplexed. Love was not the reason I’d taped up the photograph. The two things, “love” and “photograph” felt unconnected to me. My mother’s comment, however, brought into my world a sudden and very tenuous link between them, twins separated at birth meeting for coffee. It made me look at the photographs of me, placed around the house in silver frames, in a new light. Flipping the laminated pages of albums became like a trip through a dream. If it unnerved me before, to see past versions of myself in lace dresses, absorbed in paintings, reclining on grassy fields – now I’m horrified by it.
Sometimes my mother holds a photograph of me close to her face, something I’d always interpreted to be more out of poor eyesight than affection. She traces the line of my cheek and says little words of endearment: cariño, amor, sol. Mi sol. My sun. The sun, eight minutes away at light speed, but still nearly 164 years away at 65 miles an hour, which is as fast as my mother is willing to drive. “How can you dismantle the sun?”
There I am, sitting on the night table, eight years old and playing the princess in “Emperor’s New Clothes”. There I am again, on top of the shoe closet, leaning against a wall in my elementary school uniform. And again, next to my mother’s red jewelry box. And again, glued to the computer monitor at her workplace. I need to be rid of these photographs. Sometimes my despair is so great I seriously consider taking the kitchen scissors to them, chopping my body into ribbons of glossy paper. “Love” and “photograph”, this makes as little sense to me as the dismantling of the sun did to my classmate. The sun and its termination shock, the point where solar winds slow down and stop, a point whose location is a mystery even to the most dedicated of scientists. God, all those photographs, framed and hung like letters salvaged from an ancient Countess’s boudoir. I want to grab my mother by the shoulders and scream: This is not how you love someone!
(title taken from “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. It’s also what I was listening to throughout the writing of this sordid, miserable tale)