From the day I was born, Papa Razzi followed me everywhere. There he was in the delivery room, camera in hand, grinning broadly as he ordered, “Smile!” He showed up again at my first birthday, sneaking in as a clown, disguising the lens of his Polaroid in a polka dot bow tie. Again and again he appeared, offering a Bandaid when I got my first cut; a pat on the shoulder when I had my first heartbreak; a dollar’s worth of quarters when I did my first load of laundry. Wherever I went, Papa Razzi went, too.
Papa Razzi wasn’t really my papa, but he served as one in more ways than he realized. There he was, critiquing me for every imperfection (that dress doesn’t go with that hairstyle; that shade of nail polish is so last year’s color) and telling me that no guy was good enough to date me (You? Him? Please). He gave me advice that I took to heart (no white after Labor Day; no snacks after midnight), and he served as a mentor. He served as a friend. He was a constant that I could always count on.
“Papa Razzi?” I asked him one day. “Will you be here forever?”
He smiled, just like he always told me to smile. “Of course not,” he answered calmly.
“You won’t?” I responded. “But…why would you ever leave?”
His smile widened, and he grabbed my shoulder. Gentle. “You just act real interesting,” he said, “and you won’t have to worry for a real long while.”
As always, I took his advice to heart. I started being interesting.
Cameras flashed as I went for joy rides, drinking behind the front seat. My face graced the covers of magazines, the glass windows of storefronts, as the media learned of my new pick-pocketing habit—jewelry, cigarettes, gum. I dyed my hair, and then I shaved it, and then I got a tattoo of the missing strands. I wore dresses that looked like shirts, and I wore shirts that were barely bras.
Tabloids called me “troubled.” Papa Razzi called me a star.
“Papa Razzi?” I asked a few months later. “Will you be here forever?”
He smiled, just like he’d smiled last time. “Of course not,” he said again.
“But why?” I slurred the words, because part of me didn’t want to ask; part of me was too inebriated; part of me wished I had never.
Papa Razzi grabbed my shoulder, more firmly than he had before. “You keep being interesting,” he said again, “and you won’t have to worry for a real long while.”
Before I could stop it, I was crying. The tears ran down my oily, unwashed skin, and trailed down my nearly-bare chest. They passed the track marks of my thighs before hitting my feet, my yellow, cracked toenails. Then, they fell to the concrete, sliding away, draining into a nearby gutter.
Papa Razzi smiled as I wiped at my tears.
He got it all on camera.