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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

a civil servant uncovers a mystery about her past when looking at a strange baby photo that she can't remember having been in.

When I was a little girl there was a photograph on my wall. I was told that it was a photo of me as a baby, but I always doubted this because, in the photo, I was sitting in a room full of toys that I didn't recognize, holding a toy that'd I'd never seen before. Where was that strange room? Not in our house. Not at grandma's. So how could the smiling baby in that photo be me?

Not only were the toys ones I could not recognize, but they just weren't the sort of toys my parents would ever buy. They were brightly colored and garish. "Store bought" toys. Objects of fascination that both disgusted and attracted me. 

Most of all, I longed to find out what was in the jack-in-the-box that I was holding. In the photo I had a mischievous little smile and, held the box as if it might pop open at any moment. 

But, I never remember seeing that toy. I didn't know what was inside!

By the time I'd reached age 12 I'd cracked the puzzle. One day we went to SEARS department store in Canton. Back then SEARS had a photo studio. A professional photographer and little sets with all sorts of props. 

I reasoned that the immaculate nursery bursting with the kind of toys my parents would never buy had to be just such a set. And I remember feeling wistful and bittersweet about how the fascinating jack-in-the-box that I was holding in that photo probably didn't even work. It was just a prop. And so I thought the mystery resolved. And I forgot all about it.

Until today.

You see. I've been in that room.

And it wasn't just a backdrop. It wasn't imaginary. Its a real place. And it is the product of one of the work of my clients. 

I am a state therapist. My clients are fragile people, my peers at work and my boss don't really seem to understand this but I do. And that's why I make extra visits. That's why I was at the back blocks on a weekend. Many people think that minimal effort is "good enough" for residents of the inner city. But I know better.

(The words "inner cities" always makes me think of inner space, like the soul of a civilization, an inner sanctum, a space of introspection. It's not that inner cities are places inside of cities, no, inner cities are places inside of ourselves. Places inside of our minds.)

 

 

 


Submitted: November 23, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Susan Donovan. All rights reserved.

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