Picture in Line
by J.R. León
J.R. León is a magical realism and sci-fi writer currently working on too many projects that will probably never be finished. The one currently taking most of his mental attention is "AUTONOMOUS", a movie script which mashes "I, Robot" with "Christine" (1983), where a fleet of a quarter million autonomous vehicles decide to annihilate mankind in order to eradicate accidental vehicle fatalities. If you would like, he can be found on Twitter @jrleon80
I was not trying to snoop on her, I seriously was not. Unfortunately at six foot two inches, I'm usually one of the tallest people in the room, or in this case at the line for Disney's "It's A Small World" ride. It was nothing but a split second but that was enough time to get a glimpse of the phone she was holding on her right hand and intensely looking at. The picture showed the three of them, them being the couple and teen boy who I presumed was their son, that we, that being me, my wife and son, had been following around the maze of roped-off sections leading to the loading platform for the ride, and another boy. But it couldn't be. "Excuse me, can I please see your phone?" I blurted out a bit louder than what I had wanted to. This caught my wife by surprise and she looked at me with a "What the heck are you doing?" look on her face. The lady turned around and looked at me the same way my wife had just done and shook her head from side to side while clutching the phone tighter to her chest. "But I saw my son in your picture. It was him, I saw it," I answered back while pointing to my eight year old who was standing between my wife and I. The woman looked at Geoffrey and at her phone and her eyes started getting teary. She shook her head, "No, not him. Not him," she said in broken English. "Wait, what are you saying John?" my wife asked with a curious tone in her voice. "Her phone," I said while pointing at it, "she was looking at a picture with the three of them plus Geoffrey. It was him." "That makes no sense. Please stop harassing them," responded my wife with anger. She absolutely hated being involved in any type of situation where she was the source of attention and this was quickly turning into one. I don't know why I did it, but I reached out and grabbed the phone from the lady's hand and looked at it. There he was, Geoffrey, standing next to the teenage boy who was in line with them but in the picture the boy looked younger, probably three to four years younger. "Look, it's Geoffrey!" I shoved the phone to my wife's face. She pulled back surprised by my actions but then her face changed to a serious one. She grabbed the phone from my hand while the lady in front of us started pleading in her native language to her husband and teenage boy. The boy said, "Give phone back." His broken English had an Eastern European accent of some sort but I couldn't place it. The husband reached out to grab the phone but my wife pulled it away from his reach. Now the lady was crying and going into some type of panic attack. The people around us all turned to look at us. I heard a few people asking what was going on while someone yelled, "Security. Can we get someone here please?". The boy kept repeating, "Give phone back. Give phone back". But my wife was scrolling through the pictures and her face just kept getting paler. "What is it Sam?" I asked my wife. "He's in almost all of them," she responded. Geoffrey unexpectedly reached out and grabbed the phone and looked at it intensely. "Let me see Mom?" "Geoffrey!" my wife responded upset that he had snatched the phone from her hands. Geoffrey's expression changed rather quickly from curiosity to disapproval. "That's not me. He doesn't look anything like me," he said. My wife and I looked at each other confused. It was him. "Geoffrey, give me the phone," I said. As he was trying to hand me the phone over the husband snatched it from his hands and placed it in his back pocket. His wife and son turned from us and slid under the rope dividers and left the line. I thought about going after them but I was so confused about what just happened and they moved so quickly throughout the people that I lost track of them. I turned to Sam, "Was it really Geoffrey?" Sam tried to say something but she couldn't come up with an answer and just shook her head as if trying to clear out the fog within her thoughts. "Yes, it was. It was him. Or, or another himâ€¦ I don't know." "Mom stop it, that wasn't me. He looked nothing like me," said Geoffrey. My wife and I looked at each other again trying to make sense of what had just happened but were left with nothing. Moments later park security got to our location and asked us to step off the line. We were escorted to a quieter area by the exit to the ride and they asked what took place and we explained the encounter. They weren't happy we had forcefully taken the phone from the woman but since she wasn't here to explain her side of the situation they gave me a strong warning that if I ever did such a thing again I would be banned from the park and so would my family. After they left my wife and I decided it was better for us to get back to the resort and take Geoffrey to the pool since we didn't want to take the chance of running into the family again and having them contact security on us one more time. As we were about to leave a family was coming out of the ride we had been waiting in line for and the wife walked up to my wife, "Hello!" she said. "Hi!," responded my wife. "We saw what happened in line and we wanted to tell you something about it butâ€¦" Here she lowered her voice so Geoffrey couldn't hear her and doing a quick head nod towards Geoffrey, "Can he not be around? Please." The husband put a hand in his pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. "Hey girls," he said to his two daughters, "why don't you take him over to the ice cream stand there and get something?" "Is that okay?" he asked me before handing the money to his oldest daughter. She was about fourteen and the other was about ten. "Umm, sure. Go ahead Geoffrey and please say thank you." The three of them were quick to make their way to the ice cream stand giving the adults a bit of privacy. "So what's going on?" Sam asked the woman without waiting for them to explain. "We saw what happened and we don't really know how to say this butâ€¦" "But what?" interrupted Sam. "But we understood what she was saying to her husband and kid. We are Norwegians, like them, and we speak the language, so we know what they were talking about," she answered. "Okay," I replied not sure what else to say. The two of them looked at each other and the husband gave the woman a soft nod of encouragement to continue the explanation. "The moment you took the phone she started talking about her son named Micah. She kept repeating his name and asking, why is this happening again. Why do people think Micah is theirs. She kept repeating that over and over. And right before it all ended, when the husband took the phone back, she said, ``He's been dead for four years, why can't we live in peace."" "But howâ€¦" Sam couldn't finish her question. "But we both saw the pictures on her phone. It was a carbon copy of our son Geoffrey. It truly was," I responded. "But your son said it wasn't right?" the husband asked. "Yeah, I guess. I know, that's the weird part. The kid in the pictures looked exactly like he does now. Just with different clothing," I answered. "Whatever happened to her after the police got involved?" asked Sam. "Last I heard she was sent to a mental health facility and the news just disappeared. Guess they didn't care for a person with mental health issues," the lady responded. We all stood around trying to come up with something else to say but were at a loss for words. "Hey Dad, look I got a Mickey ice cream bar." Geoffrey's comment woke us from our thoughts. I looked at him and smiled. He and the two girls were enjoying their ice cream bars as they walked towards us. "Okay, I think we must get going," the lady said to her husband. "Let me pay you for the ice cream. The prices here are completely ridiculous," I said as I put my hand in my pocket trying to find some cash. "No, don't worry," the man said. He looked at his wife and daughters and smiled at them. They turned and walked away from us, leaving us standing there, Geoffrey enjoying his ice cream, my wife and I lost for words.