"He died on Thursday" she said to him. They stood in the living room.
His sister's arms were tightly folded around herself.
"I tried to make it here as fast as possible" he said.
"I know. But I figured you'd get a flight when you could."
He looked around. His brother's condo was a nice place. Modern
Scandinavian furniture, art prints on the wall, a tall bookcase
half full of books and magazines. "I've never been here before."
"Well take what you want. I know he would have wanted that. I'll sell
"I don't think I'll be able to take much all the way back to Hawaii."
It was a long flight home. The next day he went back to work and tried
not to think about his brother's funeral. Weeks later he found himself
getting up very late on a Saturday. He shaved and showered and put
on an old pair of jeans and a Maui shirt. Once the coffee was made
he took it into the living room and then took the big box of photos
out of the entry hall closet. There were roughly 60 envelopes of photo
prints in the box, all taken from a drawer of undeveloped film he had
discovered at his brother's condo. They were the only thing he had
taken from the estate. It had taken three weeks for the photo lab to
develop them all.
Envelope by envelope he went through them. He looked at each photo and
then shuffled it to the back of the group. Without any real chronology,
without the flow of time to link them, the images passed by one by one.
A photo of some palm trees surrounding a pool at a resort. Two women
with their arms around each other and their cheeks pressed together,
smiling into the camera. A band playing in front of a gazebo in a park.
A panhandler leaning up against an office building. A computer sitting
on a desk in some office. Some unknown reddish sunset — he wondered
how many years it had been since that sun had set.
His brother had been successful during his life. He had attended a good
university, and almost immediately upon graduation landed a job in the
information technology area. He drove a top-line Japanese sedan, did a
bit of traveling on vacation. He had never married and never had any
children — but assumably that was the way he wanted it. His brother had
been lucky, he had a good life over the course of his years. Or at least
that was what everyone had been saying at his funeral.
There were only a few packets of photos left. Picking up the next envelope
he then changed his mind and threw it down on the coffee table. He couldn't
go any further. Bits and pieces of a life. Perhaps to his brother those pieces
had a connection. But looking at it externally, they simply seemed a series
of sad frames.
It was getting late. He was supposed to get together with his girlfriend
for drinks. He changed into a pair of good slacks and a dress shirt and
threw on a sports jacket. Once in front of The Elk Bistro he parked the
car, walked through the small enclosed patio, and went in. Inside the
bistro it hit him immediately, like a vacuum. He couldn't seem to breathe.
Strange voices, the glowing colors of the neon beer signs, a cackle
coming from somewhere, from nowhere, wisps of figures passing quickly
by or sitting almost leaden at the tables. Frame by frame they appeared
to him, momentary, in tenths of a second, separate, white ghosts, pale
wraiths. And between each frame only nothingness.
He found his girlfriend sitting at the back of the room. She had already
ordered a drink. Hands in pockets he looked down at her at the table. He
tried as best he could to give her a smile.