This picture frame has tormented me for forty years.
Each time I pick it up, I remember that the glass won’t stay in place without the tiny bent nails holding the black backing that I lost years ago. Without the backing or the nails the glass is loose and threatens to slice my hand if I rush putting it away. So I put it away gingerly because it seems like I should keep it.
It’s old. Probably one of a kind.
Forty years ago, the frame held a Xeroxed photo of my lover’s face. He’d put his face on the Xerox machine glass and made a copy of it like he was making copies of an agenda for a meeting. The frame was filled with his hair, his moustache, and beard. His eyes were closed, probably anticipating the bright Xerox light.
It seemed an amazingly odd thing to do. But there weren’t iPhones then so there was no way for him to capture the immediacy of the agony he was feeling about our love affair gone south. A picture is worth a thousand words. He apparently believed that.
He folded the Xeroxed photo and put it in an envelope with a letter he’d written on yellow legal paper with a black felt tip marker. Still thinking it odd, I put the photo in this frame where it stayed for years. Moving on, I stowed the picture and the frame in the attic and then one sweaty day cleaning I decided to keep the frame and get rid of the photo. It was the beginning of the time when I started to consider what my children would think of the keepsakes in my attic after I died. A few years later, I also got rid of his letters, the whole stack of them. There were things in the letters my children would never imagine. Best it stayed that way.
Now the frame has resurfaced. I think where would a person find such a frame now? The intricate little woodwork and the clever swivel. I can’t throw it in the trash. And I can’t very well give it to Goodwill with that loose glass. Someone, some earnest worker, could cut themselves and have to leave work early.
So I keep it. I knew I would.
After I die, my children will get a dumpster that will sit on the front lawn. They’ll take the screen off the upstairs windows and throw odd things they find into the dumpster. Books on the Constitution and scarves from the seventies will go flying. My red patent leather heels will sail away along with thank you notes from people who thought I was a nice person. A million bad photos will heap in the center, missed shots of sunsets and photos of my children looking away.
A passer-by will peer into the dumpster and see this picture frame, consider taking it but think better of it because, you know, it won’t have the tiny nails that keep the backing in place and they could cut themselves on that loose glass.