My father wears a flash drive around his neck like a dog tag. The flash drive holds our entire family album, a collage of photos of the people we only vaguely resemble: the blurry underwater snapshots of our Hawaii vacation, my mother, all mask and wet suit, eclipsed by the disc of a sea turtle; my older brother’s backyard wedding, his bride a frothy spool of taffeta floating from table to table; a reel of me uncomfortably linked to the arm of my prom date, the pimply-skinned boy who would later break my heart, the only evidence of our relationship wrung around my father’s sunburnt neck.
My father is convinced that this flash drive is what holds our family together. That whatever fissure in the family fabric—the antique wedding ring my mother will lose deep sea diving, how that loss will awaken her to the possibility of other men; the divorce that will drive my brother home, deplete him of hope, until he’s only a husk of his former self; the boy from prom, how he’ll date me through college while secretly imbibing himself with the spills of another man—will somehow stitch itself back together.
What I admire most about my father is that while the rest of us attempt to destroy one another, the ugly words we say with facility, the callous threats to leave, or worse, to expose—he remains hopeful. And we’ll run back to him when we can’t justify our words anymore. Ask to see the rotation of photographs hidden within this tiny contraption, that plastic black thing he carries like a religious relic. But he’ll have nothing of our family to show us, those memories of us so wildly distorted, it’s as if those people never really existed.
María Isabel Alvarez was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala and is currently an MFA Candidate in fiction at Arizona State University. She was awarded first prize in the 2016 Blue Earth Review Flash Fiction Contest and her short stories are published or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Sonora Review, Gulf Coast, Arts & Letters, Storyscape Journal, and elsewhere.