After My Picture Fades
Maybe because I was such a tiny child, I was always drawn to miniatures. I collected them from the time I first plucked a blown glass vial from a collection of dusty bottles in an antique store in Newport. The store owner gave it to me with a laugh, when he asked if I'd found something I couldn't live without and I showed him this inch-long thing and pointed to the pontil mark on the base and said, "it's really blown glass".
It was no different on the beach, where I collected operculums. They were tiny, hard to spot and unlike other shells, probably because they aren't really shells. In our teens, my friend John and I would spend summer days at the beach competing with each other to find the most. He kept his in a little tin box. I kept mine in a medicine bottle. In our 20s, we moved to different parts of the country, and I gave him my entire collection of operculums. In our 30s, I went to visit him in Texas, and took this photo of him reviewing our collection.
It is the last photo of have of John. Within two years, he and his lover Robert were both dead of AIDS, but not before John's sisters disowned him for being gay and being sick. He died alone in a hospice, his last wishes that I have the little tin box full of shells.
His sisters being assholes, they kept the box and threw away the shells and told me never to call them again.
Every time I go to the beach, I look for operculums, and every time, I find at least one. I know that John is with me there on the shore. This summer on the Gulf, I found more than a dozen during my week stay. I thought it meant it was time to share John's story.