It was there just lying on the sidewalk. I didn’t know what prompted me to pick it up. Curiosity perhaps. It seemed unnatural that a Polaroid be cast away. It was slightly singed on one edge. The picture captured in the Polaroid was just a barren landscape. There was nothing significant about it. Which was surprising when instead of chucking it away I pocketed it. I was on my way home after going to the cinema. The movie running was an old thriller Basic Instinct. Even though it wasn’t a phenomenal experience the characters played by Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone had more life in them than most thrillers I had seen. Besides Ms. Stone’s carnal behavior was quite appealing. It was around six in the afternoon and the sun was trying to sink beneath the sea. Which meant it wasn’t all that late and I had time for a beer before I called it a night. I stepped into a Chinese pub that served anything except Chinese and ordered a Carlsberg. I let the froth waste my dehydration. I took out the picture and gave it a glance. Then I turned again to my beer and… there was something. I glanced at the picture again. There was a moon in it. And the landscape seemed to have gotten darker. I decided that I had had quite enough beer for the night and called for the bill.
The following morning I woke up with a taste like something suffocated and died in my mouth. My head felt as if someone sawed my ears off. I fell out of the bed in an attempt to get to the bathroom. Finally after cleansing my mouth with some mouthwash and rinsing my face with some cold water I got ready to go to work. As I picked my Swatch from the dressing table I saw the Polaroid that I had picked up yesterday. It was face down. I picked it up and turned it over. I couldn’t have forgotten so quickly what I saw yesterday or I couldn’t have been mistaking. But it was right there in front of me. The landscape remained, although it was now a sunny day and there was a woman lying on the sand. She was facing into the picture so I couldn’t clearly see her face. And there were bottles of beer lying on the ground beside her. There was a word written on the picture and it said ‘May’. Funny, the year had already strolled along to August. It was probably some strange beer I had yesterday and I’m suffering from the after effects, I thought. Better not let it get to me, there are things I need to do today. Important stuff. With that thought in mind I left home for work. I left the picture on my dressing table.
Work was busy being a Tuesday. Too many people shuffling around not really knowing what to do. Giving orders that they didn’t really know how to give. And the people like me who sat quietly crouched behind a desk, trying to think. I worked at an insurance firm. Although my true dream was to own a record store, the money wasn’t so promising in that field than in insurance. I had to sort out a claim made by a senile old man who had set fire to his house and claimed it was his ex-wife’s doing. He was lying through his wrinkly old face. I knew that much. But he was insured and I had to sort his issue out before noon.
It was noon. I hadn’t done a thing about the blasted old man. I was thinking not surprisingly about the picture. The girl. The bottles of beer. Somehow the picture seemed to have captivated one of my dreams. Everyman’s dream I should think. I decided that work was going nowhere and decided to go for lunch. I was about to sneak past my boss’s room, when he called me. Damn. I stepped into his office. There was a gorgeous girl sitting in the chair opposite him.
‘This is Ms. May, she’s here to see what we do in insurance. She wants to see if this is the field that she wants to join. Take her and show her around will ya’ he said.
I didn’t mind. She was awesome. And I wasn’t doing anything important other than inquiring about an old man’s ex-wife. I took her around office and was careful not to stutter or say anything obvious. Then I remembered her name. ‘May’ just like in the picture. I was taken aback. I lost my bearings. Then she said. ‘I saw enough. I don’t think I want to be in insurance. Let’s go to my place and fuck.’
I got up Wednesday morning feeling like a million dollars. The previous day was straight out of a fantasy. Until she left saying never to look her up again. But I was too much in oblivion to take much notice of that. Even if it was a one-nighter it was better than any steady relationship would ever be. I got out of bed still in my boxers and stepped over to the dressing room. I reached for it. Turned it over. And the landscape was there. No girl. No bottles of beer. The sky was red and there was a skeleton half buried in the sand. Somehow I knew things were just about to change. The day went by without incident. The old man got compensated. I finished my work for the day. I was on my way home with a colleague of mine who offered to drop me off when we hit something that ran across the road. We both got out and saw that there was blood on the buffer and there was a whine from under the car. We both knelt down and saw that we had hit a goat and the car had dragged it into the tyres. It lay there dying, twisted and coiled up under the car. We watched it die. There wasn’t anything we could do. Then we moved the car to a side of the road and walked the rest of the way home. I realized that I was crying when I reached home. I went straight to the dressing table. I picked it up. I didn’t look at it, just took my lighter out and held it to the flame. But it didn’t burn. Just singed a bit on the corner where it met the fire. After ten minutes I gave up. I had had a bad day. I just wanted to throw it away and go get some sleep. But, curiosity got the better of me. I turned it around. I looked back at me. I kept it on the dressing table and went to sleep. Troubled would be putting it mildly.
Page 3. Column 4.
Missing Persons Section.
Howard Fernando aged 29 was last seen wearing a blue long sleeved shirt and brown suede trousers. He has short hair and a birthmark on his left jaw. He has sharp features and is 5’ 11”. He was employed at Pacific Insurance and is listed missing for 8 days. Please send any information leading to his whereabouts to P.O. Box 4534. or call 078 823691. On conformation there will be a $1000 reward.
‘Hey careful with that stuff, we don’t want to pay for damages on delivery now do we?’ said a guy from the movers.
‘We got everything boss, the guy was pretty neat. Nothing out of place. He just had a few things anyway, my guess is…loner’ said the assistant as he finished hauling up the last of Howard’s possessions into the truck.
‘Oh, boss…I found this on the dressing table’ he said, passing a Polariod to his superior.
‘Looks like a picture of a desert or something, probably taken on a trip. Let’s go’ he said getting in the truck and closing the door on the passenger side. He threw the Polaroid away as the van sped on its way to Howard’s parents house with all that was there to remember him by.