The Weegee photo

Posted: 2011 in Post 2.3
Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 22, 9:23 p.m.

The fourth photo finds its way from Jack’s hand to mine. It’s a strange image: a Polaroid taken by a neighbor the day before his wife was no more. It’s a real slice-of-life shot, unposed, the subjects unaware of the cameraman’s presence. Jack and his wife are in their kitchen. They are sitting at their kitchen table, one on each side, facing off. I know this posture. They’re in the midst of an argument.

Weegee photo

“Lucy let the neighbor guy into the house without us knowing,” Jack says, as I study the photo. “I had a long talk with her that night about not letting anyone in without asking Mommy or Daddy first. For all the good it did.”

In the photo, Jack of twelve years ago is slumped in his kitchen chair, his head leaning heavily into his cupped hand. The other hand is balled up in a fist that rests on his thigh. Visible tension is all over him. There are stress lines in his forehead. His shoulders are up around his ears. He looks a lot less like the dork in the wedding photo and more like the drunk, widowed, ruined man seated across from me. He’s exactly the same age as me in the photo. Do I look like this?

His wife is in mid-sentence, frowning with her mouth open on a vowel, her hand out to help make her point. She looks even more upset than he does. Jack can remember every word of their conversation, thanks to this picture. Unasked, he recounts it.

“She said, ‘I hate this.’

“I said, ‘What?’

“She said, ‘Seeing you like this. You look terrible. You aren’t eating, you aren’t sleeping—’

“I said, ‘How would you know?’

“She said, ‘Well, unless you’re sleeping somewhere I don’t know about, you’re only in our bed a good three hours a night. And even then, you keep thrashing around and muttering. Are you having nightmares?’

“I said, ‘Can we just drop this, please?’

“She said, ‘Fine.’

“And she did drop it. For about thirty seconds.

“Then she said, ‘You’re on a team, you know. You don’t have to do it all. Can’t some of the other reporters pull their weight a little?’

“I said, ‘All of the other reporters are working just as hard as me! Do you have any idea how hard this is? If the cops nail this guy and the P.I. or the Times are there and we aren’t…do you know how that will look?’

“She said, ‘I just think you could…I don’t know. I just wish you didn’t have to put so much of yourself into some son of a bitch serial killer. It’s such a waste.’

“I said, ‘It’s been months and months—a waste? How the hell would you know? You never read my stuff! You don’t give a damn what I do for a living, do you? You bitch about it.’”

Jack hangs his head.

“I said that. She was dead eighteen hours later. I didn’t know what was coming, but still…I said that. Petty. Stupid. I knew she never read my articles. She never had in the ten years we were married. It hurt. She complained about how much time my job took, but she never bothered to check out the result. How many people’s jobs have an end product the whole damned world can see?”

I can relate. But I say nothing.

“She said, ‘Honey, I just mean it’s terrible that a good man has to give himself to some killer he doesn’t even know, not to the family that loves him. And misses him. Jack? Do you understand?’

“And right then, the flash went off. We both jumped and yelled, and our neighbor was all, ‘Hey, thought you’d be used to the paparazzi thing, Jack! Got any beer?’”

Jack sighs. He’s silent for a long time.

“I was about to say to her, ‘Yes. I’m sorry, baby. I miss you and Lucy. I love you.’ But I lost my chance. And I never got another.”

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