Of course I kept the photograph and of course it’s still my favorite picture of the two of us. You’re wearing a navy dress and I’m wearing a tuxedo I bought at the thrift store down the street. It’s nice and from far away you can hardly tell that the seams are held together by Elmer’s glue and scotch tape but in the photograph it looks nice. You look nice, hair unfurled and wild like you are.
It’s from the photo booth at that party we went to where the theme was Casablanca, which we loosely interpreted to mean anything from the 1930s up until the 1950s. We’d been swing dancing or what we thought swing dancing should look like, that one impressive move with our arms behind our heads and the crossing back and forth and a dip at the end of the song even though I wasn’t strong enough to support you. You fell a little but you were charming and ended up looking more graceful than anyone else in the room. At least to me anyway.
In the photo we are just friends. We make goofy faces. We don’t touch, hands too busy with bunny ears and thumbs up and dinosaur claws. But we seem more together in this photo then we ever did in any of the photos where we are holding hands or hugging one another. We are eighteen and look young but I remember thinking that we looked older, what with me and the tuxedo and you and that vintage navy dress. I remember thinking that what made us different from the others was how we carried ourselves with such maturity. To look at it now is almost painful: those wide, carefree eyes that couldn’t possibly see further than the thick, velvet curtain of this photoboothed present.
I miss the ease of our early fumblings: star-gazing at two in the morning, swing sets and running through mud. I miss the start of it all and I think that’s why I cling to any artifacts from our beginnings. Because of course you know the story: the falling in, the falling out. The fights. The poetry. The under the door-crack notes. The bottles of red wine. The whiskey.
But this is not about that (the congealed, ugly parts of our middle), this is about the photograph that I keep in the top drawer of my desk, the photograph with curled edges and faces stained from the watery run off of a mug full of tea. I keep it because I like the way it makes me remember a life soundtracked with songs by Josh Ritter and the Weepies, a life of open windows and ukuleles and climbing rooftops, of being young and trying on firsts.
Because even as time moves to separate and rift us a part, I like knowing that I have this small sliver of an us that is frozen in reckless laughter and the sloppy sweat of dancing too much. This is how you live for me and I hope that someday this is how I’ll live for you, too.