Creative Nonfiction: Now He Is A Mugshot
By Heather Domenicis
Now he is a mugshot on my laptop screen. Computer pixels make up his dark, sunken eyes. Full lips. Same buzz cut he always had. Some blemishes on his smooth face but otherwise clean shaven. A look of despair.
When I say he is a mugshot, I mean it. Caught with a stolen car, he drove away. When they caught up to him, he fled on foot, but not fast enough. In his waistband, a hand gun.
But look, here we are as babies. Sitting on a deck eating peanut butter sandwiches. Him in overalls and sneakers, me with bare feet and a cropped T-shirt. Smiling at our parents. My dad, 39, 40, 41. My dad’s girlfriend, 19, 20, 21. They're out of frame, behind the camera. Trying to love each other. Trying to keep it together while the meth pulls them deeper into their love, into nothing, into a spiral that takes them further away from us.
Here we are again, sitting on a brick wall holding hands, in front of two little windmills stuck into the bushes. Him in jean shorts, topless. Toothy grin and a buzzed head. My face serious, like usual, with two tiny pig tails in my hair, probably done by his mom. Our hands barely grasp one another.
There we are, together when the cops smashed the bathroom window with their stun guns. I know this from reports and nightmares and because I saw them replacing the frosted glass window a few days later while a social worker asked me questions. I was eight months older than him. Does he remember that day? Or did his mind do what mine did? Black it all out. Did our parents try to protect us? Did we look into each other’s eyes, trying to make sense of the chaos? Did we hug? Run and hide together?
There I am with him and an older neighbor girl, maybe she's eight or nine. She dares me to put his penis in my mouth and I do, though I know it feels wrong. He just giggles and tells our parents later, thinking it funny, just a silly thing, and my dad forbids that neighbor girl from ever coming over again.
There we are together while his father screams at his mom in our driveway, more drugs, he says. He needs more drugs. She’d promised him more, this is not enough. He will not take his son for the day if she does not give him more drugs. I imagine we hold hands, retreating from the yells, into the bushes, behind the small palm tree and the Bird of Paradise plants. Hiding from the screaming behind the lush southern Californian greenery.
While I go to private pre-school, he stays home.
There we are in our parents’ bedroom, an open Corona on the bedside table. I beg him not to, but he takes a sip. He says it’s kind of good.
We are on the swing set, next to the deck. Under the deck is a stash of meth in some PVC piping. My dad’s product. We don’t know this. He picks up a rotten orange, fallen into our yard off the neighbor's tree, and throws it against the sliding glass door. He shouldn’t have done that, I tell him.
Then we are on a tricycle. Two kids, one bike. Me in front, him on the back. Just in our diapers. Grinning. Our tiny fingers grip the handlebars together.
I’m in a Little Tikes red plastic car, feet dangling out the door, Looney Tunes band aid on my knee, honking the horn at him as he looks into the camera, smiling, squinting. Diapered. Shirtless. Happy.
Here I am at 26, on my couch in my New York City apartment, looking at his mugshot. Looking at our baby pictures.
There he is at the detention center. Waiting.
Heather Domenicis (she/her) is an Upper Manhattan based writer and editor moonlighting at a tech startup. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from The New School, is a Best of the Net 2024 nominee, and her words appear in Hobart, JAKE, and [sub]liminal. Born in a jail, she is writing a memoir about all that comes with that.