A while back I wrote “Photographic Memories” a story about a damaged photographer trying to find his way back to happiness. He said: The camera is a machine for trapping time. Flypaper for moments of truth.
That thought was in my head when I saw the black and white photograph below. It got me thinking about when the moment was and what truth it captured. My imagination led me to the first part of a story. I’ve shared it here as an illustration of where my ideas come from.
The text is of course fiction and does not based on any factual information about the women in the photograph.
Like all fiction, it is only as true as the extent of your belief.
Photograph by Hans Steiner
Hope and Gloria
© Mike Kimera 2011
“Thank you for agreeing to meet me, Ms. Denton.”
The researcher is young. pretty and dressed to display her athletic form without actually revealing any of it. I assume that the publisher thought I would be more open in the presence of this fetching ingenue. Sadly it seems that the girl herself has not been briefed on her role and, instead of flirting with me, she is speaking slowly in deference , I assume, to my great age.
“Agreeing to meet you seemed to the only way to avoid endless tedious phone calls with your boss. Is she always so anal about every detail? It seems to me that she is the sort of woman who would benefit from Rhett Butler’s advice to Scarlett O’Hara…”
I’ve clearly caught the girl off guard by attacking her boss and I’m fairly sure that she has never seen “Gone With The Wind” but one of the few privileges of age is being able to discomfit the young, so I look her in the eye, lower my voice by an octave and say: “You need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how.”
The poor girl’s eyes have gone wide. This one is as straight as a die, I think. There was at time when I would have taken that as a challenge, but not today.
“Do take a seat, my dear.” I say, as if nothing at all odd had happened.
She perches her tightly clad bum on the seat opposite me, crosses one leg over the other and leans forward in a way that may be meant to create intimacy.
“I’m sorry to trouble you with this, but my editor asked me to do some last minute verifications before your autobiography goes to press.”
Her smile takes her from pretty to adorable. I forgo the pleasure of asking her if she is accusing me of lieing.
“What is it that you would like to verify?”
“Well, the story you tell in Chapter Three is quite startling. My editor is excited, of course, but…”
“She’s worried that Gloria Smythe’s litigative descendants will try to sue? You can’t libel the dead, my dear. Your boss should know that.”
“Well, Gloria Smythe was the sex symbol of British Cinema in the 1950s. People have a special place for her in their hearts. We’re concerned that your story could attract a lot of bad press.”
“Don’t give me that ‘Nation’s Darling’ crap,” I say, allowing my irritation at the girl’s book-blub sentence to show. “Gloria’s relationship to sex was more than symbolic. She was a sexual omnivore with an insatiable appetite for the novel and the naive. The first time she ate me, I was both. Do you know, I think she only fucked me because my name is Hope and she couldn’t resist the opportunity for us to be Hope and Gloria?”
The girl actually blushed. Where do they find these people?
“The thing is, Ms. Denton, we would feel more confident in going to press if we had something that substantiates your version of events.”
My version of events. She makes it sounds as if having more than one version is a flaw rather than an inherent attribute of the human condition. Still, at least she had the backbone to raise the point.
“Well, Gloria is dead and her spineless excuse of a son burned any papers that he felt were inconsistent with his mother’s image. In those days we didn’t have the option of filming ourselves having sex and posting it to YouTube. Dear Christ, if we’d been able to do that, Gloria’s film career would have been much more interesting. All I can offer you is this.”
I hand her a photograph and a journal. True to the ways of her generation, she looks at the photograph first.
“That’s me and Gloria. We were drying off from our swim I’m the one looking at her. She’s the one looking into the distance.It was the last day of summer. The last day we were together. I was no longer either naive or novel. I didn’t know it then but Gloria had already lost her appetite for me.”
The girl, I really should have tried to remember her name, looks from the photograph to me and back again, trying find that young swimmer in my face. She’s wasting her time of course. That swimmer drowned in grief decades ago.
“You both look so young.”
“I don’t think Gloria was ever really young. I on the other hand was an absolute puppy. Look at me. Look at us.It is all there for anyone to see.”
“”Who took the photograph?”
Hah, this girl may be brighter than I thought. That’s an excellent question.
“My mother. At the time I thought she knew nothing of what Gloria and I were doing. Certainly she never spoke of it. But a picture like that is not born of ignorance. My mother was addicted to seeing life through a lens. She took her camera with her everywhere. She once told me that life without a lens lacked focus. She always shot in black and white. She said that it removed the distraction of colour and the pretense of documentation and presented each picture for what it was, a choice on how to show the world to others.”
I realise that, while I’ve been evoking my mother’s ghost, my little fact-checker has opened the journal at the place that I had bookmarked.
“It’s my mother’s journal of course. I found it after she died. I rather wish I hadn’t. It demonstrated that while I’d never really known my mother, she had known everything about me.”
The girl looks up at me. Her mouth is open. She looks stunned. “Your mother…”
“”…watched Gloria Smythe finger fuck me and then went back to her room and wrote it all down. Fascinating isn’t it?”
Ok-That’s as far as the picture has taken me so far. I hope that the next piece will be an extract from the Jounral. If it arrives in my head I will bring it to you.