Photo Op
by Alina Borger

The first time she wore a dress her
mom had not made, her brother sat across
from her at their little picnic table,
grinning under his shiny bowl cut and
eating Cheez-its from a
small metal snack cup.
It was a straight-lined little love of a
dress in purple-blue-pink plaid with
ruching at the top and a
ruffle along the hem just at her knee.
She thought I am so lovely and smart
exactly in this outfit, her long brown
hair up high in a braided ponytail,
the white wonder of a sandwich
waiting complacently before her.
She thought No one has ever been so
perfectly fine as I am. The sun
grazed her skin through the porch
screens. Her mom set her chin,
pointed her camera.

The last time that she wore a
dress her mom made,
a coworker’s son stood across
from her, his band tuxedo cutting
into his armpits, a grocery-store
corsage in hand. He said, You’re
going to wear that? She thought,
My mom and I made this
dress, you oaf. They’d picked out the
pattern and the brocade—
sewed the underskirt of stiff tulle
to give it shape. They’d set her hair
in Grandma’s brown flannel rag
curlers, and let it fall curly-cued
down around her shoulders.
She thought I am doing this out of the
charity of my heart for a boy with no date,
and she moved her chin slightly up,
even though her lip trembled.
Slipping the corsage onto her own wrist,
She looked up to see her mom,
handing the camera to her.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a child.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alina Borger is a writer and a high school teacher in Iowa City, Iowa. Her work appeared most recently in Kindred and Brain, Child—and is forthcoming in Wherewithal and The Mom Egg Review. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s cheering for soccer matches between her two boys or curling up with a good book and a mug of chamomile tea. You can find her online at or on Twitter @AliBG.