It’s a trap, I silently scream at the young couple holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, enthralled by their own reflection. 

            Her soft raven hair that falls in curly locks contrasts the piercing blue eyes digging into the man’s brown ones, locating his secrets and weaknesses and folding them into a small corner of her mind, like laundry intended for special occasions. His eyes ooze nothing but kindness and honorable intentions behind thick glass lenses, glossing over her faults and any signs of malicious intent. 

            It’s a trap, I steadfastly repeat as the young man with broad shoulders and a large heart not yet weighed down with self-doubt and regret goes to clasp the silver chain around her slender neck, the diamond pendant resting right where her heart should be.

            His soul will become entangled in that tether, and she’ll use it to slowly slowly squeeze the very last ounce of self-resilience out of him with the astonishing skill of a cobra hungering for lunch. 

            It’s a trap, I whisper meekly as I watch her flouncy dress drag down the aisle and his clean-shaven face hovering above his bowtie, beaming with accomplishment at his beautiful bride.

            You can barely discern the two-month bump under her pearl gown, the catalyst of the occasion. Soon, due to her hunger, it will swell into an imperfect sphere–the ball to strengthen her chain. 

            Run while you can, I mentally urge him, before he’s weighed down by more than excess fat, by broken hope and steamrolled pride further pummeled by an infinite stream of verbal abuse. 

            Save yourself, I plead with deaf paper ears as the image depicts a newborn child in his strong, stable arms; the gaze he has locked on his daughter emanates a tangible intensity as he vows to protect her from the evils he himself had fallen prey to. 

            You should have done it, I tell him bitterly as he’s hoisted the toddler onto his shoulders, both wearing matching grins, remembering how he told me his fantasies of driving into highway medians as a means of escape from his desolate life. 

            The pictures in the photo album slowly become more sporadic as the young daughter grows into a sentient being who no longer smiles just for the sake of happiness, but as a means of survival, to keep herself from drifting into that none too foreign realm of despair. The smiles of both her mother and father become more strained, then scarce, then absent altogether as the bliss of a child in the house slowly wears off, leaving nothing but the bitter realization of dire dissatisfaction.

            I flip through the remainder of the pictures, my eyes alone capable of discerning the minute discrepancies behind the picture-perfect, middle class family. Photographs depicting cherished memories of Disney are spoiled by the endless soundtrack of bickering that flew over the young girl’s head as she tried so hard to hold onto the magic of her childhood. Pictures of the family’s vacation skiing in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado are tainted with the greedy rhetoric of a wife vying for a life of luxury she needed not lift a finger to earn, instead driving her husband to work longer hours by transforming his house into a hostile, unwelcoming domain, save for the young daughter who adored him. A lone photo of the daughter reading her favorite book, gripping the cover vehemently, not for investment in the elementary plot, but instead desperation for a means of escape as the inundated screams of her parents grew louder and increasingly vengeful, and the empty threat of divorce rang more frequently in the air. The documenting of the young girl erecting her very first poster is overwhelmed by the sickening crack of splintering wood as the anguished husband redirected his fist into his daughter’s bedroom door and his wife continuing to bait him like a broken-spirited bear.

            But I know he’ll never leave, despite his wife’s greed, treachery, and that manipulative tongue of hers spinning insults and lies to ensure she will always have her way; despite the madness he is driven to, resulting in the slamming of doors and the hastily turned-ignition of his car as he makes his getaway before he can do something he will eventually regret. I used to believe he was an upright man, with a noble, non-confrontational nature. But over time I have realized that it is only weakness that keeps him tethered to this life, and that his entire existence has been successfully bound from the chain she has weaved in and out of his limbs in a thoughtful pattern, extinguishing any means of escape.

            I close the past with disgust and shelve the old photo album back into the depths of my closet, where it will collect dust but never become truly forgotten. A hopeless helplessness starts to shake me to my core, my stomach sinking like an anchor into the depths of despondency, a lead ball dragging my father down with me.

Edited By: Zach Iezzi

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