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The Third photo

The girl who died in a pedestrian accident on my ex-boyfriend’s street corner is named Sophie Elizabeth Allen. There is a laminated sign with a black and white photo of her attached to an iron fence. At one point in the fall, the same sign was nestled in a pile of leaves and stones. I don’t remember if the sign was there before the leaves fell. I’m not sure when, exactly, Sophie Elizabeth Allen died, or whether her death preceded or followed my move to Chicago. The memorial was striking, at first, only because my name is Elizabeth and finding my name on a roadside memorial felt similar to finding my name on a keychain at an amusement park. Because of Sophie Elizabeth Allen, I became hypervigilant when crossing the road, and after a year of crossing the street unscathed, I felt indebted to her; I owed my life to Sophie Elizabeth Allen.

Coincidentally, my relationship fell apart around the same time that a girl named Sophie came into the picture. Waiflike, Sophie was the daughter of an oil tycoon: Mademoiselle ExxonMobil. The ex-boyfriend suggested I practice my French with her. Seven generations removed from my Quebecois ancestors, I shrank. 

Sunday, Sophie, the ex-boyfriend, and I got high in Lincoln Park, an outing that I had been begging the boyfriend to accompany me on for weeks, but he’d demurred. Suddenly emboldened by Mademoiselle ExxonMobil’s visit, he planned a picnic, of which she ate a crust of bread while I watched her impossibly thin waist bend like light. I stole Sophie away to look at the seals, and then the lions, who had somehow shrunk into hiding whilst inside their glass panoramic enclosure. Afterwards, she let me read a page from her diary. I flipped through and picked a page at random like sinking a dart into a target. It was that kind of lawn game. The same one I am playing with you now. Sophie had recently gone through a break up. I don’t remember her ex's name. I do remember the striking legibility of the word VIOLENCE. 

That evening over dinner, I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to break up, and he ignored my ill-timed question. We were seated at a familiar French Mediterranean fusion restaurant. He picked at a medjool date. I felt replaceable. Sophie crawled into the ex-boyfriend's bed later that night. It was just the three of us. Sophie wanted to stay up all night, philosophizing. I felt like a shrinking lion. It might not have been so bad had my ex-boyfriend not have been obsessed with threesomes. He routinely perused Tinder, and once offered up his best friend as a third. For ironies sake, I wish that the boyfriends name had been Allen, but I am always encountering near misses. I'm sorry that I brought you into this, Sophie Elizabeth Allen. This isn't really about you.