This week’s theme is stories.
When I was an undergraduate student, many moons ago, I took a Creative Fiction Writing course. One of our assigned books was Flash Fiction 72 Very Short Stories. In it was a story, Snapshot, Harvey Cedars: 1948, that has stayed with me through the years. Its central message resonated: Every picture tells a story, but it may not tell the whole story and it may not tell the truth.
In Snapshot, author Paul Lisicky describes a photograph of his parents at the beach when they are young. His mother is beautiful, “the best looking woman on the beach.” His father, “muscular, his stomach flat as a pan” has an arm around his wife. (179) The image seems to portray a happy couple, flush with promise for a wonderful life.
The author goes on to surmise, in hindsight, what his parents might have been thinking when the photo was taken. The story ends with: “Can she already hear the gun which my father will press into his forehead, twenty years away?” (180)
How could this story not stay with me? It is a total of three short paragraphs, but is packed with so much descriptive detail, emotion, and raw truth. I often think back to it when I scroll through social media, filled with photos of family outings, children, girls’ nights out, couples, weddings, anniversaries. What is the real story, the truth the photos aren’t telling?
I think of the stories and truths my own photos don’t tell.
I took the photo of the cabin on Case during a recent hike with my husband and 13 year old son. We came across it when we took a route we’d never taken before, at a popular hiking spot in my town called Case Mountain. My husband, a few years older than me and a native of our town, said that it used to be part of a campsite. He had forgotten about it and expressed sadness over its demise.
Later that day, I posted the photo with several others depicting the autumn foliage on Case Mountain. A Facebook friend commented: So many parties there, when a friend actually rented & lived in the cabin.
Really? I responded. Tell me more!
She wrote that in the 70s and 80s, groups would drive up the winding dirt path in cars. The cabin had vintage furnishings and even a calendar from at least 50 years before. There were bonfires and parties.
This was just a different time and place at the cabin on the case, she said.
As I read her words, the photo took on new life. Instead of a sad, lonely, decrepit shack, it was now alive with people, voices, music, parties, pure teenage mischief and joy. And within that new life, I wondered how many stories existed. How many first loves, broken hearts, drunken brawls, cutting words, drinking games, laughter, friendships made and lost, regrets?
We will never know. As Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” And like atoms, some stories exist without being seen, and some truths are never revealed.