tom on a bench by the sea - that’s all there is to this story.

the slope was stone, the sea below, the bench perched on the slope, a floating gazebo. we or he sat long after everyone else had left and he showed me photographs of a long-ago life and i wondered if he wanted it again, the sparkle underneath the sepia. i thought if i were really careful with my fingernails there must be a layer i could lift, and if i held my breath and made nothing shake i could bring us back into that moment. i could make the frozen flame flicker, a laugh pour from parted lips.

old photographs are old photographs, he said.

his gaze was not soft, and it wasn’t hard, and it wasn’t blank, but it said very little, perhaps nothing, as there was nothing to say. he didn’t smile, but he wasn’t frowning either… there was nothing in his face that tied him to anything, even to nothingness.

tom on a bench by the sea with his back towards me.

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