Siracusa - Delia Ephron
I HAVE A SNAPSHOT of me standing on Finn’s shoulders when I was twenty-nine, a trick we’d perfected. I would sprint toward him and work up enough steam to climb his back to his shoulders. I look triumphant and not a little surprised to have done this—it was unlikely I would ever stand on a man’s shoulders, having been neither a cheerleader nor a gymnast, and I am not physically daring (a deficiency). I was unhappy that day on a Maine beach fifteen years ago, but you’d never know it from the four-by-six glossy. Finn and I broke up that afternoon.
In the photo I am looking at now, you can read my mind. I am depressed. I’m hunched on a stone bench, wearing a black quilted jacket, not flattering. There I am looking like winter on a June day. Behind me in the distance lies the little port, dotted with sailboats and small yachts, one of Siracusa’s few sweet spots.
My hair, always a tumble, is messy in a way that suggests I hadn’t bothered with it. My eyes are hidden behind sunglasses. This seems intentional. I was confronting the camera, my face turned toward it but flat. I had neither the inclination nor the energy to strike a pose.
Who took the picture? I can’t remember. Events that day are muddy. Suppressed? It’s been a year and some of us no longer speak, not the ones that you would expect or maybe you would. I didn’t. Since the photo is on my cell, odds are Michael is the photographer, although possibly not, because I am centered in the photo. The subjects in Michael’s shots are frequently missing the tops of their heads or their arms.
Snow should never have been on the vacation at all. It was a grown-ups’ trip, but Taylor never went anywhere without her, so Finn said. Although you never know in a marriage who is responsible for what, do you? Husbands and wives collaborate, hiding even from themselves who is calling the shots and who is along for the ride.
She was ten years old and a mystery, Finn and Taylor’s daughter. “She is brilliant,” said Taylor, but in England the year before Snow had spoken rarely and then softly. Her mother had ordered for her. The waiter would look at Snow studying the menu, clearly intelligent, and Taylor would speak. Snow often read straight through a meal, the iPad on her lap. When I asked her a direct question, she looked to her mother. Anxious, I’d thought. For rescue. “You prefer milk chocolate, don’t you?” said Taylor. “You loved that movie Pitch Perfect? Didn’t we see it three times?”
For Michael and me Snow was wallpaper.
I’ve barely begun, and undoubtedly with that remark, I’ve turned you against me. I’m like that, unpleasantly blunt. Some people like it, some hate it. I tend not to worry. Finn would be horrified to hear that even if he were not Snow’s father, but not Michael because he’s a writer. Writers often forgive cruel observations. They even admire them. It makes them feel empowered, justified, off the hook for their own ruthless words. For doing that thing writers think is their right: taking a friend, swallowing him (or her) whole, and turning him into a character to suit their own fictional purposes.
The trip was my idea, a moment of spontaneity, enthusiasm, and slight inebriation. Liquor played a role right from the start.
Since our summer fling years before, Finn and I had maintained an attachment that neither of us fully understood. We were given to bursts of e-mail intimacy, intense for a few months, then