by Inês Pupo
The silver salts started to reveal his face, except… it wasn’t really his face. There was a scar on his forehead. Which he’d never had. Edward looked again, his yawn interrupted. No doubt the red light was causing him to imagine things. He turned on the lights, only to stare at the black and white scarred forehead on wet paper. He swore at the sight of unprinted photo paper on the counter. Money down the drain. He’d better leave the dark room and get some air.
Julia kept silent as he went to the large squared window. Lisbon was staring back at him, as if to say she didn’t have answers. A self-portrait gone south… He’d have to take another photo, and god knew he hated being photographed. Damned newspaper! He photographed for them, yes, but this felt like such an intrusion. No one had to know what he looked like.
“Are you okay?” – said Julia.
It was uncanny the way she could tell something was wrong with him just by looking at his back.
She wasn’t convinced.
“We’re going to tell your mother today, remember?”
Of course he remembered. It had already been two days since they found out and she still didn’t know. She would be thrilled.
They climbed the stairs slowly, the smell of old wood and the iron handrail he used to slide down as a kid – “No hands!” – welcoming them. He’d told Julia all about that before, so this time he kept it to himself.
Same paintings, same books, same pictures, same smell. Same fresh smile on a much more wrinkled face, the only shred of evidence of time gone by. That and the grandfather clock with its relentless tick-tacking. Edward looked at his picture. HIS picture. She never spoke of him by name, it was always HE or HIM. The love of her life. His father. So many years now, and still he used up all the air in the room. Edward was very much like him but more private, they told him. How else would he know? Edward never met him. He died before Edward was born, and then his mother came to live in Lisbon, so there wasn’t even any family to talk about him. All he knew was that one picture: laughing 10-year-old boy, running on the beach, the sun on his back, the photographer on the ground.
“Let me help you.” – he heard Julia saying to his mother.
Julia and his mother went to the kitchen, as they did every time they came for dinner. They were talking to each other, the weather, how things were going at the store, the oven, new housekeeper, new dress, oh-and-did-you-hear-the-prime-minister-talking-about-these-new-health-user-fees?
It was clear to Edward that his father was not a subject his mother liked to talk about. He didn’t know why, though. And now, for some reason, in the last few days, he started to wonder again.
“So, Mom, we have something to tell you.” – said Julia, her hand on Edward’s.
“Oh? Is it good or bad?”
“It’s 6 weeks.” – said Edward, smiling.
“Oh, Eddie! Julia!”
She was thrilled. He knew she would be. They were too. After so much time, they finally got pregnant. He didn’t quite fit those daddy shoes yet, though. Before, it was all about not being able to get pregnant. It was almost like now he didn’t know how to feel now. Happy, sure, but how happy? How hopeful that it would turn out okay? When would he feel like it was real?
“Do you have a name yet?” – his mother asked.
They smiled. Always in a hurry, that one.
“It’s 6 weeks. Let’s wait and see, alright, mom?”
It was enough to make every patient in the waiting room look at him as he stood up to begin his dental torment.
The drill went on and on, so he looked at the t.v., on the right upper corner. The dentist – Joana – muttered something to her assistant. He couldn’t hear it, in the midst of all the noises. It was much like being taken to an alien spaceship, the orange mask on the right, orange glasses on the left, and an electric blue light in the middle.
THE FUTURE IS NOW was apparently a trending band with futuristic outfits, as if they were on t.v. just to match the setting of his dentist appointment. Maybe it was the anaesthesia, maybe the lack of coffee, but for some reason he let himself ramble about that.
The future. Is now. Which means the present is the past. Or something. So this tooth that’s being drilled can be born any second now, a baby tooth taking its place only to be given to the fairy. Unfair. Or maybe this son – never imagined a daughter – will be a new Edward, same green eyes, same outdoor fanatic, same street football addict. Or maybe Edward is a new HE, same ten-year-old boy running on the beach, looking like his grandfather. Or maybe the past is the future and they’re the same. All three of them.
The lamp above his face let him see his own reflection. There were his green eyes and his open wide mouth, there was his soon-to-be-born tooth… And there it was again, the scar. Alarming and menacing scar, that only he could see – Julia assured him there was nothing different in his forehead.
His hand told him there was nothing wrong with him, the wet photo told him otherwise. He gave up the darkroom for the day.
She was resting.
“Ed? Are you finished?”
“Not quite. I can’t seem to get that self-portrait out of my way.”
“Oh, that. Well, they told you no rush, right?”
“Then come here. The baby’s kicking.”
“Hey, baby. How are you in there? This is dad.”
“We really need to think of a name for him.”
And there it was. What was it with women, always thinking of what had to happen next…
“Baby is fine for now.”
“Did you get your mother’s gift?”
“What was it?”
“A picture of my father. Older.”
“How nice! Do you want to show me?”
Edward took the picture out of his pocket. A black and white home-developed picture.
“He must have been in his 30s. He has a camera!”
“Yes, he also liked to take pictures, not just write. He worked as a journalist, for some time, and took his own pictures. Developed them at home, too.”
“A journalist. Did you know that?”
“I didn’t. She would just talk about him, how much I look like him, how she misses him, and then she would just cry. She never talked about his work, his friends, what he did. Maybe I never asked…”
“It would be nice to read some of his articles. What was his writing name?”
“He used his real name. Samuel Morrow.”
The red numbers blinked as the nurse yelled.
There was a loud cry. Julia’s face was as lit as it was sweaty, her brown hair wet as if it had been in the rain for hours. They brought him all wrapped up, lots of hair, tiny human that calmed down the minute they touched him.
“And what’s his name?” – the nurse asked.
Julia turned to look at him. They’d never talked about it again. It was like they knew it all along. Edward put his hand on the baby’s forehead.
“His name is Sam. Sam Vieira Morrow.”
The silver salts started to reveal his face, and… it was really his face. No scar, for the first time in a while. He turned on the lights, to stare at the black and white clean forehead on wet paper. He was lifting baby Sam up in the air and making him fly. They were both laughing.
Julia looked at him as he came outside the dark room. Sam was in his crib, staring back at him, and rose his arms asking dad to pick him up.
“Are you okay?”
“Sure. All done with that self-portrait thing.”
“Your mother’s coming for dinner tonight, remember? And tomorrow maybe we could go and check out that new restaurant. What do you say?”
“Today is fine for now. Tomorrow we’ll see.”