IV. PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY 

 THE STUDY 

Jessica

Henry

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Tim

(Jessica, the woman in the white dress, stands on the gantry level, looking at newspaper clippings and photographs that cover the walls of the study. There are hundreds upon hundreds.)

 

Not long after this, perhaps a month or so, I changed my hair back to the way you liked it.

 

I didn’t want to. It was summer, and warm, and I liked the unfamiliar feeling of the sun on my neck: the heat of the sunburn, so very like being touched in a very strange but not unpleasant way – a certain someone just touching your arm, or the back of your hand, and you entertaining the idea that the touch was somewhere else entirely and with slightly more intent.

 

It was a nice feeling. Unbecoming.

 

And I was like you, I think, for a short while. An inventor. I’d invented myself for the summer as someone entirely fresh and new.

 

(Another picture) There. You can see me in this one. So unlike myself. You didn’t like it – thought it girlish and loose – but you took my picture anyway.

 

What part of me did you want to remember, exactly?

 

The part that was me, or the part – for a summer, at least – that wasn’t?

 

(Another picture) James, my God, what’s happened to your wonderful teeth? Such a perfectly monstrous gape where three or more should be! The tooth fairy paid you handsomely for such a find. Sovereigns you spent on sherbet… the perfect foil for dental hygiene. This was such a roguish face for someone whose smile was ordinarily so charming.

 

We had talked before, you understand. Exchanged words of strong feeling. The balustrade was not a place for play, but Henry, you were always the younger of the two, to the point that on occasion – and I’ll not forget this easily – it was often James shedding tears for injury you’d do yourself.

 

Quite a thing to discover one’s husband sitting on the landing stair, nursing a bloodied shin and a wailing boy across his arms… the boy untouched, but deep in sympathy.

 

On those days, I’d never feel a wife so much as a mother to the both of you, doling out healing kisses and repaid in broken smiles.

 

My two men. Fair-haired and bloody.

 

(Henry enters the study, wrapped in a woollen blanket.)

 

But where are you, Henry? Your face is conspicuous, even in its absence. Always hiding behind that camera, never the one in front.

 

Where are you now? Where are you in the map of our lives? (She turns to him) Well?

 

I was never much one for the limelight.

 

Is that so? (Reading a news article on the wall) “The famed inventor, right, pictured with wife and child.” (Another) “Revolutionary master machinist, Henry Black, steps forward to receive fellowship at behest of grateful Pinkertons.” (Another) “Henry Black, imaginator, unveils latest work of genius: the mechanical homunculus of Substitutiary Locomotion…”

 

Lights, of all lime spectrums, are unflattering to the observed. Light unfit for anything besides reading fiction.

 

You had such a kind face back then.

 

Some would think it still is.

 

Oh? Has a candidate at length emerged?

 

Wouldn’t the madam like to know?

 

Madam is reserved, lest her emotions confound her belief. Let us hope the young woman has a tolerance for hot air pretending at charm.

 

For her sake as well as mine.

 

Agreed.

 

My question remains. You think I’ve forgotten, but darling, elephants and wives have more than majesty, grandeur, and thick hides in common. I can’t see you. I see who we all were well enough, but you… you aren’t here.

 

I suppose I am, in a way. From where I stand, where you do now – right there – looking out at the two of you, seeing you both through that damn camera… For a moment I’m not here – not in this shabby old place, frozen to the bone and positively withered by gout – but where you both are. Remembering, for a moment, the moment you’re still in.

 

That I’m still part of.

 

That isn’t remembering, Henry. That is somewhat more than mad.

 

I know. And just a little bit charming.

 

Perhaps.

 

Are you here to be helpful today, or a hindrance?

 

I haven’t decided. You’ve a preference?

 

Lady’s choice.

 

You know I don’t mean you any harm, don’t you? Not really. It’s just / your work…

 

(Turning to leave) My work, I know. Thank you. Duly noted.

 

Perhaps it’s a sign.

 

Astrologers see signs. I see perspiration, inspiration, computation /

 

Ghosts?

 

Principles I believe in. Breakthroughs I can see. Resolutions so close I can reach out and touch them. Don’t you remember what that looks like?

 

I do. I see it, every night. On the face of your dreams.

 

Then perhaps that’s where you belong.

 

I?

 

Yes. Where all resolutions belong: in dreams. But I wouldn’t ask you to share mine. You were never of that school of thought.

 

Henry…

 

I know you’re against this. I know you think I’m being difficult. I know, that beyond the border of reasonable tolerance, you’re as frustrated with my failure as I am…

 

Henry /

 

I’m not doing this for myself, Jessica. You among all people should know the value of a sacrifice. What I’ve sacrificed. What I’ve lost /

 

Henry /

 

Yes?

 

Darling, you’re being short again.

 

And whose fault is that?

 

Yours, naturally.

 

You chose me.

 

As if you gave me choice.

 

Hilarious.

 

You know, you’re rather impossible in the afternoons.

 

From dawn until dusk, and often through the night.

 

Then I’ll be sure not to linger.

 

Wouldn’t ask you to.

 

All right then. Goodbye.

 

(Turning to leave) Good riddance.

 

I love you.

 

I do.

(Henry is silent. Jessica looks at him.)

 

You know, I almost see what you mean, standing where you stand. Quite a flattering angle, really… and such a divine light.

 

(A silence. The sound of ocean waves beneath the floor.)

 

(Off) Master Henry, I’m back! Master Henry? You in there?

 

Jessica turns back to the wall. Henry exits.

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