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It’s 2003.

I only know that because it says so in red-orange print at the bottom right corner of the photograph. I usually can’t remember dates. Nope. Never. Hmm… 2003… I must be, what? Ten? Eleven? That means my brother Ian and our friend Breasil are nine or so.

We’re at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. I remember other photos from that trip: The carousel horse I fell in love with—wild as a mermaid of ancient lore, a green tail, a white body, fearsome eyes somehow beautiful, seaweed and starfish and shells in the cascading green mane.

I remember us staring at the huge tanks filled with fish, the glass walls on either side of the asphalt walkway. Our faces are stained with blue from the light shining through the water. My nose and hands are pressed up against the cold glass—Mom gave me some hand sanitizer soon after. The boys are having a grand time; I’m so glad to have two little brothers for the day at the zoo.

Breasil is the smallest in the picture, he always has been. He is perched on top of the statue of a seal; Ian and I are seated on either side of him—as if to catch him if he slides off. There’s a bit of thatch-colored hair peeking out from beneath Breasil’s blue ball cap. Ian is wearing his army cap backwards, a shock of brown hair across his forehead. He is also wearing camo pants, white-and-blue sneakers, and a blue T-shirt with letters in rainbow that say Calvary Kids.

I wear straight-legged jeans, the denim at the knees faded from summer. My shirt is a long-sleeved tie-dye shirt. There’s more white than colors in it, probably because I tried to dye it myself. I have on sandals—brown leather with my toes peeking out. All three of us smile at the camera. The smiles are genuine but look a bit frozen; we’ve probably been staring at the camera for a while now.

I wonder if this picture was taken at the beginning of the day or at the end? I don’t know. There is a stone wall behind us, and evergreen trees. I’ve grown up with evergreen trees, some already giants when I was born. It smells like a typical zoo, but I don’t mind—it’s worth it getting to see exotic animals.

What are the sounds, you ask? I don’t know. I can’t remember. The eleven-year-old girl smiling shyly at the camera seems a foreigner to me; I can’t get inside her head. All I hear is stillness, the stillness of an empty room as I write this memoir.

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