Prosopagnosia – Alif Hoque (he/him)

The work below is by Alif Hoque as part of our MA Creative Writers takeover.

«Prosopagnosia: a neurological condition characterized by the inability to recognize the faces of familiar people.»

To Malcolm,

You know, mummy really loved drawing as a child. I think I first started when I was about your age actually; it was a drawing of your grandpa… or at least of the more creative version of him I made up in my head. I even gave him a big Cheshire cat-like smile, which was totally inaccurate as he was rarely the type to express happiness with such clarity. I’m also fairly certain that his shape never resembled that of a potato with arms and legs wrongly attached, but it was a child’s drawing after all. Your grandpa was surprisingly fond of it despite all the problems, so it sort of became a household talisman until your uncle decided to cover the drawing with stickers. However, seeing my dad’s reaction was all I needed to keep making more, to the point that my drawings became a sort of unlikely collection over time. Though that particular one has been lost, I did manage to keep many others which I’m sure will give you a good chuckle as you skim through them. (Wonder if you’ll recognise someone?)

Looking at you now, I wish I had carried on. How I would’ve loved to have drawn a good picture of you! Not so much for myself as much as for you. I bet I could capture you in a way no picture or video ever could; in a way that, perhaps, would help you see who you really are. It’s a wonder how, for someone yet so young, your face conceals a number of stories. You have the same chestnut hair and tanned complexion as your father, but your expression often reminds me a lot of your uncle when he was a child. The small curls at the edges of your mouth are very much mine, as are your small flat nose and the green-brown eyes. Somehow, you managed to get the best out of both parents you little devil. They say that those who are pretty in their childhood lose their charm as they grow older… but I really don’t think that’ll be your case.

God, imagine I had made an art book out of our best moments together! I’m thinking of a drawing of us in Camden Town, capturing the way you adorably snuggle up to me and daddy, refusing to let go because you’re so afraid of losing us. Maybe even one of the time we took you to Palermo, daddy’s hometown, and you finally met nonno Filippo and nonna Rosangela for the first time. My personal favourite would be one of you alone, surprised at your own reflection, slamming the mirror trying to catch the mysterious objects floating around your empty face. It’s such a wonderful idea… at the very least, I would’ve been able to leave behind something far more significant than a few letters. A lot has probably happened by the time you get to read these letters, but I hope they will help you piece together the tiny fragments of memory still within you. I’m sure you’ll be able to do it, my little detective Conan.

By the way, I forgot to mention it in my last letter but I finally found the courage to dye my hair for the first time. I choose a wine-red mahogany colour, kinda similar to that of dark cherries. It may look kinda punkish, but I think it turned out well overall. It kinda makes me wish I had done this before now… but late is better than never I guess. Your dad seems to also like them (though he seemed slightly unsure about it when I first told him). I would love to tell you that I’m not worried, Malcolm. Truth is that I’m having a really hard time keeping things in check right now. I guess as much as I’m writing to you, this is more of a letter for myself in the end. It’s the only way I can think to help me come to terms with what will happen from now on. This is letter number 13. I often ask myself how many letters I have left but I’m afraid you already know the answer to that.

Love you always,


PS: I try to pull your ears whenever you refuse to eat, but you keep turning away; perhaps that will become something to remember me by.

Spiral stairs in black and white.
Spiral stairs in black and white.

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