The photographs I didn’t see

The photos all had one thing in common — me in them.

I was 5. Then 10. Then 17. I was always smiling, but never with my eyes.

When I opened the envelope, not expecting pictures at all (but, then, I remembered a phone conversation with her. She was sorting all of her photographs. “I always put the date on the back. Always.”) they spilled out in surprise, a Christmas cracker popping too soon, fanning across the table.

I looked down at them without looking at them. They sort of sat on the table in silence, my ears ringing louder as my fingers caught up to my brain. Should I look at them? My hands reached, but my eyebrows furrowed. Whatever I saw, I said to myself, I can’t unsee.

When I first flipped through them, quickly, I looked everywhere around the picture except at myself. I looked at skies. Birds. Grasses. Houses of past. I couldn’t bring my eyes to my own eyes. Some had just me, some of me with members of my family. I shuffled through them like a deck of cards.

I glanced through them again, this time flipping them to the Kodak paper back. It was true. A date was either penned or penciled in a random corner (It always changed). 1985. 1992. 1998.

I was back at the start of the small pile now. Heat and dampness collecting in my palms. I exhaled and looked again. Stomach churning, foot wiggling, I looked at my physical past.

But we were smiling. But I was dressed, looking pretty normal. Sure my clothes were clearly hand-me-downs, but this isn’t what I remembered. In fact, I didn’t remember any of the moments in these photographs. What did this mean? One of us was lying; me or the pictures.

Can you argue the photos, though? Ghosts of a moment etched in a pinhole of light and reflected backward onto glossy paper? No adult remembers their childhood perfectly. Do I worry now? That I don’t remember any of these moments? Events?

Or were this fictional archives so we could all look back and say “See? Things were ok.”


One response to “The photographs I didn’t see”

  1. This is quite a nostalgic peace. I loved how you built up to past memories and evoked a familiar feeling of being unfamiliar.

    Liked by 1 person

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