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  • Writer's pictureLannie Neely III

Screws '95

Simply put, I couldn’t have enjoyed myself less. On my face, I can see a baby smirk not quite fully hatched from its shell, but it isn’t enough to feign enjoyment. I think the eyes give it away; they seem to say: “What the hell is all of this about?” Or maybe, if that’s a bit too expressive a statement for a seven-year-old mind, I wasn’t thinking at all: youthful Lannie may have discovered the emotional middle-ground between hopeless boredom and the weary façade of eagerness.

I was brought to this event (Cal Expo?) semi-involuntarily—if I was asked at all—by my old man. He was, is, and as far as the phallic nature of the Washington Monument is concerned, always will be a “man‘s man”—I‘m not sure that‘s a compliment, but he would take it as one. Like his recitations of the fictional Manly-Man Manual, his “accidental” placements of smut within my eyesight, and his boisterous exaltation of everything-that-is-breasts, this particular trip and the resulting photograph was part self-indulgence, and part buffer against any future possibility that I might become a “poofter.”

The lady next to me is a mannequin. I’m quite certain today that in 1995, robots walked among us, and that Miss Audio Expo ‘95 was one of many media-inspired automatons. However, from the sincerity of her pale-faced smile, they may have used a real head and tooled it onto her body, but I can’t be sure: I wasn’t used to looking for the screws that held people together. I was only seven, maybe eight, and I think it would be twice as many years before my libido would inform me of the significance of a Miss Audio Expo ‘95 in a man’s life, but until then, I didn’t understand her.

While waiting for the camera’s flash, I can remember a blossoming curiosity about my old man: why was he so intent on getting this picture taken?—he didn’t even keep it! He gave the picture to me, as if it was I who demanded the company of a five-dollar model. However, this picture confirmed the fact that I was indeed “his son”—blood tests be damned!

Other than me and a can of spray-on-tan in a bikini, there is one other entity in this picture worthy of note: the Ghost of Awkwardness Past. I can see discomfort sticking to my clothes—my body is stiff with it; I’m the only geometrical object in the picture. It seems obvious that I didn’t know what to do, reaching my chubby left arm around the smiling stranger, my right hand somehow channeling the spirit of a portly aristocrat and tugging at the fringe of my sweater like a gentleman’s top coat.

Why, then, had my old man been so blind to it? Did he not recognize the look of suppressed indifference? If he ever understood how little we had in common, he never showed it—I have been to many monster truck rallies, motorcycle shows, car auctions, etc., none of which I have the slightest interest in.

I hadn’t talked to my father for four years after I turned nineteen. The next time I saw him, he acted genuinely excited. Without mentioning my sudden departure and prolonged absence, he gave back some of the items I had left behind—this picture was one of the first; it does a wonderful job of reminding me how parents act and, in a way, how I don’t understand what holds them together.


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