Pillanatkép

by mdjb

“Something is definitely wrong here,” János said. He was sitting on the edge of the loveseat. Margit returning with a filled tray from the kitchen wanted to know what was bothering him.
“It is this photo,” he said. “It is different from the others I snapped a few days ago.”
After putting the tray on the table in front of him, Margit took the photograph from him and examined it. “How did you shoot this?” she asked. “Were you standing on the path directly in front of the cyclists? How did you manage to avoid being run down?”
“That’s just it, you see. I was taking a picture of the empty street. Those children weren’t riding there on Wednesday.”
His wife looked intently for a moment, at the photo, and then at János. “You must have confused yourself, dear,” she said. “You’ve captured a moment out of time, and from a very difficult angle it seems. You know you become forgetful when you’re getting the flu. That must be it. You were not careful in covering yourself when you slept, and another cold night let it happen again.”
“I’m not getting sick, and I’m not senile,” he stated flatly. “I tell you those children weren’t there when I took the rest of these pictures. Look, however, at the youth in the center. Does he not look familiar to you?”
“He does resemble you a bit when you were younger. I recall you used to cycle to and from the school where we met. For that matter, the young man on the right looks a bit like my old friend György who introduced us to each other.  It’s a coincidence that has upset you.”
“I remember the little blond girl, too. She was the daughter of our neighbor Lázsló, the pharmacist. She died of consumption before her thirteenth birthday.”
“Then this is an old photograph taken by someone else, and it is you on the bicycle.”
“It is not,” János said, “It came back with the others. I have the negatives here. You may look at them in sequence. Hold them up to the light. You will see several pictures of the street, but you won’t find those children in the rest of the set. I haven’t pulled the old albums out of the closet yet, but I feel compelled to uncover an answer to this mystery.”
“My love, you haven’t had your breakfast. Why don’t you eat something before you go trudging off to look at old photographs?” Margit was looking at the negatives and did not see young people in any of them. She heard the sound of the postman outside on the walk. Birdsong filled the air. She could barely detect the scent of almonds in the room and wondered if János were aware of these. She had been hoping on what would have been an otherwise perfect morning her resolution could have been carried out more smoothly. She had been hoping her husband of too many years would have drunk his morning coffee as he did every day, not noticing today’s had been specially prepared to ease him on his way. Now, this photo business was intervening. Yet, it might be serendipitous. This was what she would remember about the day. János smiling, carefree on a bicycle, going home. She sighed, and turned from the sunny window intending to urge him further, and just like that he was gone.

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