Pictures of You

in which photos imagine forever

There’s a picture of us. We’re in San Francisco, newly married, smiling for the camera. We’re genuinely happy and at that moment I imagine it will always be that way; the bliss, the laughter, the joy, with us forever.

There’s more pictures. In my sister’s backyard on Mother’s Day 2010. Your parents’ house in Sacramento, vacation grins on our faces. At my cousin’s wedding in 2007. That one is framed on my office desk and when I go in later in the week I’ll have to put it away in a drawer because I won’t be able to stand looking at it.

This isn’t like the others, where I burned pictures or tore them up. I’ll keep these photos, I’ll keep the folder dedicated to portraits of you, pictures you patiently sat for while I learned how to use the camera you bought me. I’ll keep them because there’s happiness within, there are memories that I would prefer to not erase. There’s fourteen years of bliss, laughter, joy.

Even when we hit speed bumps, there was the love. There was the unity, the feeling that nothing could divide us. That love is what kept us from falling too hard, and it’s what’s keeping me from falling apart now. It’s something that will always be there, will never be replaced or obliterated by anger or bitterness. The pictures are a reminder of all that was good about us, and I choose to hang on to those things, to not lock them away and pretend they didn’t exist.

Barcelona 2012. You’re standing by the water, you’re sitting in a garden, we’re grinning at the market. 2006 when you had just moved here. 2010 at the Faith No More concert, your hair blowing in the wind, a look of contentment on your face. Small glances of our life together live in my phone - you holding the dogs, the two of us at a carnival, you working in the yard.

I won’t discard the photos, but I may never look at them again. The sorrow is too much, the longing for a time passed too great. It would hurt my heart to delete, to discard, as much as it hurts my heart to see them.

There’s one of you on the couch in our hold house, the couch you were sitting on when you spontaneously proposed to me in 2013, a moment etched in my brain, indelible, unforgettable.

So much of you is unforgettable. I don’t even need these photographs to remember it all. The noisy adventures, the quiet dinners, the lulls in the good times when everything seemed like it was going to hell but our love kept us from going under.

Two days ago, you sat on the couch in our new house, the one we bought together with dreams of forever. You talked to me of endings and beginnings. I only processed part of it because my thoughts became fuzzy and lost, a buzzing ringing in my ears where your words should have been. My brain took a snapshot of you, in your red sweatshirt and khaki pants, hair unkempt as always, eyes looking down. I’ll file that away in my head and every time I come across a picture of us with an air of laughter, of joy, of forever, I will revert back to that mental snapshot of you telling me it’s over.

2009, we’re at wedding and you’re making a goofy face for the camera about one hour before a bad oyster took you down. 2013, you’re getting a tattoo. 2019, sleeping with the dog curled up in your arm. I close the flickr tab, I turn my phone over, I slide the few physical photos I have of you back into the box where they were hiding.

I’m listening to Jackson Browne’s “I’m Alive” and as I sing “Hey look at the way I believed in you and loved you all these years,” I remember. I remember the way I stood by you. I remember things that weren’t captured in pictures. I remember how the smiles faded away, how we both slid into our own worlds and maybe forgot to love each other fully. There’s no pictures of that. There’s just us in San Francisco, smiling, joyful, imagining forever.