Tomorrow, I will be the same age my father was when I last saw him. I'm looking at a photograph of him naked from the waist up, his back against the white porcelain tiles of our balcony. His eyes are vacant, like deserts at noon. The year after that photo was taken, we left Lebanon. I wish I could ask him what he was dreaming about at that moment since the frown lines on his forehead indicate some degree of pain. This is not right. Dreams should be above suffering. Then I remember that God put a snake in Eden, to prove that it was Eden.
In the lower left-hand corner of the photograph, two men dressed in bulletproof vests point their machine guns towards the entrance to my neighbour's house. The contrast between the thick vests and my father's transparent skin is too much. Surrounding buildings are covered in flaking ochre paint and scribbles in Kurdish, a language I no longer understand. The photo has a sepia tint, but when I look closely, there is a small painting next to my father's right ear. Indigo damson plums with dusty skins, in a brass bowl. This is how still life can be.
Then I remember what the picture doesn't show. The deadheaded jasmine shrubs bordering our plum orchard. Their fragrance is trapped in a distant time and space, like the stories my father used to tell me. I have since lost my sense of smell and perhaps more senses I didn't know I had.
There are children laughing and running along our street now, but my eyes look like my father's. I ask myself how it came to this. Then, I remember.
First published in Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Three (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2018).