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Cracked Open

By Tommi Parrish

  • July 13, 2022

This comic was drawn with dark, reddish-brown ink on light blue paper. The first panel shows the exterior of a medical building. A speech bubble from inside the building reads, “OK Dad, check this one out!” The caption at the bottom of the panel says, “When you live far away it can seem like people are aging in fast-forward. Someone you love is in their fifties and then, BAM! They’re almost seventy.”

 

Tommi and their father are in an exam room waiting for a doctor. Dad is sitting upright on the examination table and Tommi is leaning against it with their feet on the ground. Tommi is holding a book and showing their dad. “Her work is so good, it’s just like, ouch! Right in the heart, you know?!” Tommi says. The caption reads, “You’ll look at their face while you video call and wonder when it was, exactly, that they suddenly started to get old and how it is that you’re only noticing this now.”

 

A closer-up image of Tommi and their dad on the examination table. Tommi has a shaved head and Dad has short hair and stubble on the lower half of his face. Tommi is pointing at a page of the book and looking at their dad, but their dad is looking away. “It’s nice you have such nice friends, Katie,” Dad says. “Well, I mean, I wouldn’t really call us friends. I think we’ve only spoken once,” Tommi replies. The caption reads “People keep getting sick and dying. It’s sometimes expected, and sometimes it’s not. Either way you don’t often get there in time to help.”

 

Panel in the style of the book Tommi is reading. A shoulders-up image of a long-haired person with freckles and a patterned shirt. The figure is running a brush through their hair. Their face is obscured by Tommi’s speech bubbles. “But just look at this visual language! The lines!” Tommi says. “God. It kills me. I’m dying from jealousy right now,” they add. The caption reads, “But it’s not just about the getting older, what’s complicated is the moving on that’s often coupled with getting older.”

 

Over a faded drawing of two figures holding hands in the style of the book, Tommi tells their dad about the artist who made it. “She’s called Sophia Foster-Dimino. When I first read her work, I felt cracked open. Kind of like exposed. But in a good way, like all these ways I feel lonely or scared are shared by tons of other people.” The caption reads, “I suppose you wanted that moving on to happen. Mostly because the teary, furious calls demanding you come home needed to stop.”

 

A close-up image of Tommi and their Dad. On the left side of the image, Tommi is looking at their Dad with wide eyes and concern. “Oh shit,” Tommi says. Their dad, on the right side of the panel, is crying. “Dad I’m sorry I wasn’t thinking,” Tommi says. “It’s OK, it’s OK” Dad says. The caption reads, “It’s not just family that enters this time warp while you’re gone; friends and acquaintances enter new careers. Life-changing relationships begin and end.”

 

Tommi and their dad are sitting at the examination table. They turn their heads as the doctor comes in. Tommi put the book down next to them. The caption reads “Years later they realize something in their life needs to change and, with time, start to make different decisions.”

 

A view from outside the medical building. Through one window on the left, the doctor is visible, standing upright. The doctor is addressing Tommi and their dad, who can be seen through a window in the right. The exterior of the building is brick. The caption reads, “For your friends, the shape of your absence has begun to blend into the landscape.”

 

An image of tree-covered hills as seen from a parking lot. Some parking spaces are visible in the lower part of the frame, divided from the hills by a fence. The parking lot is empty and there are no figures in sight. The caption reads “But it’s OK. You’ll probably go back one day. Maybe after everything you just needed to know that you could leave.”

 

THIS PIECE IS PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES, “VISUAL REFERENCE,” IN WHICH COMICS ARTISTS RESPOND TO THE WORK OF A VISUAL ARTIST THEY HOLD CLOSE.
Born in Melbourne, Tommi Parrish currently lives in the woods in Western Massachusetts. Their sophomore graphic novel, Men I Trust, is forthcoming from Fantagraphics in November.