I know this locket was my father’s and that he inserted the pictures of himself and my mother, but I’m not sure if he told me this or if it’s a story my mother told and I’ve imagined it so intensely it reads as memory. Regardless, I can clearly see my father showing me this locket. He had a metal detector—a top of the line model—which he and my mother would take outdoors to locations they imagined people lost stuff, and they’d run the metal detector across the ground, and when it recognized metal it would make some sound, and they’d dig up whatever. My father was a carpenter who worked for the school system, and favorite spots were under the bleachers at the various high schools he fixed up. You wouldn’t believe, he’d tell me, the treasure that falls out of people’s pockets when they’re sitting on bleachers.
Most of the items that were copper or silver got melted down—my dad had a homemade kiln in the basement where he could generate such heat—and sold. Special finds he kept in a cigar box in a drawer in the end table in the living room beside his armchair. I remember him, repeatedly, opening the box and showing me intricate rings and pins. This locket came from that cigar box. I acquired it sometime before or after my mother died. It sat on my dresser for several years until I met poet and jeweler Paige Taggart. Once, after visiting her family here in the Bay Area, Paige took the locket back to Brooklyn and turned it into this necklace. I wear my locket necklace more than any other item of jewelry, besides my wedding ring. Paige tested the metal. It’s gold-plated, not worth much.
On the exterior, two flowers arc; and beneath them is etched a more abstract, circular design. I imagine the flowers are my parents, mirroring the photos within. The circular flourish is the whirling vortex that is me. When I wear the necklace, the locket falls below my heart chakra, against my solar plexus. I associate the solar plexus with panic attacks because when I used to be plagued by them, that’s where they always started. Felt like there was a horse inside of me, bucking to escape. In the photos each of my parents is outside. The sunlight is dazzling and they’re smiling and anybody can see how fun-loving they are and they’d never ever do any of the things that make my memory of them so goddamned complicated.
Dodie Bellamy’s books include WHEN THE SICK RULE THE WORLD, THE TV SUTRAS, CUNT NORTON, and THE LETTERS OF MINA HARKER. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, writer Kevin Killian. She recently wrote an article for Frieze exploring exploring queerness, disability, the standardization of bodies and the politics of visibility: What Can’t Be Seen.