Susanna Salk


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The Face Book
Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

My brother just unearthed our grandfather’s The Harvard Freshman Red Book from 1936. It wasn’t called The Face Book yet but it did showcase the Freshman class’ male faces: my grandfather’s freshly shaved one gleams above a jaunty grin and striped bow tie. I remember posing for my own Freshman class look book for high school. I had thankfully transitioned from glasses to wearing contact lens just days before but my teeth still held vestiges of a permanent (for another year) bottom retainer- as if my early teen hood self was playing a prank on the older one desperate to emerge. My Grandfather had gone to the same prep school and growing up I had heard stories of how he commandeered that campus as if mayor of his own private town. Here I was following a few decades later on a campus now coed. I waited in a line full of Freshman to sit down on a box in front of a white screen. I had carefully chosen a striped sailor shirt over khakis and espadrilles with a slight heel and as I approached I suddenly felt as if my clothes were meant for another body. The It Freshman girl Clare, was finishing having her picture taken. “Beautiful!” the photographer exclaimed as the flashed popped. Clare had a timeless beauty and a smile that rolled off her face like summer rain on a warm roof. As I stepped aside almost deferentially my heel caught. Clare grabbed my elbow and righted me. She was wearing a faded Grateful Dead T-shirt over a peasant skirt with the same grace and poise as if it had been an evening gown. I was too surprised to thank her and sat down on the box. “Smile!” said the photographer. My lips refused to part and reveal the small metal bar my orthodontist had positioned in with a satisfied snap. “Stripes!” The photographer then exclaimed, and indicted the horizontal ones of my shirt for what reason I couldn’t tell. In the distance I could hear Clare’s easy laughter and I wanted to hold onto to it the way we used to grab on to a T Bar as kids to be whisked up a steep ski hill. My tongue ran along the brace bar that held my teeth in place as if considering my options. Before my lips parted, I could already see my image placed on a page and the page viewed, then turned.