a fun side effect of moving is finding unexpected little surprises here and there, tucked into boxes behind old pairs of shoes and your stash of sweatshirts. i found a cache of old snapshots, a path through the halcyon days of college, before digital cameras made it infinitely easier to capture ignominy for the rest of the world to see. (and don't think i am not ETERNALLY grateful that i missed facebook in undergrad.) i spent a few happy minutes glancing through the stack, remembering some things fondly, with a pinch of bittersweet for how things have changed.
then i got to the last picture in the stack, and the shock of the sight took my breath away.
when i married at age 21, there were a couple hundred random snapshots in addition to the stiffly posed portraits. the photographer was far better at choosing action shots, casual vignettes of what was supposed to be our special day. dizzy with the good humor of the day, i convinced my least-social friend, who stood at the altar and watched me walk down the aisle to take my vows, to pass a slow dance with me. as we danced together, we talked, laughed, et cetera. the photographer crept up near us, without me even seeing it, and snapped a single photo of the moment. he was in mid-sentence, gesturing with one hand. i had a hand on his shoulder, smiling. we were looking each other in the eyes. honestly, to an outsider, you'd think he was the groom, so intimate was that moment.
so here we sit, so far from that day in so many ways. the man who put the ring on my finger doesn't live here. the wedding dress i wear hangs in the new closet, bearing witness to the past. and the friend from the picture? well, we laid in what was once my marital bed, skin against skin, and held each other close in the dark of the same night that brought me this slice of memory. we spoke in voices measured and fearful, pledging our love to one another and fearing the uncertainty of the changing dynamic between us. he mentioned that day, all those summers ago; watching me walk down the aisle and take another man's hand, he said, cut him in ways he couldn't articulate until that moment.
that photo, once a pleasant aside to the day that would build my life, is now only a stark reminder of what should have happened. but that's the funny thing about memories; you can use the example of what came before to rectify mistakes, to learn, and to grow. we learned from our errors, and in the darkness, in each other's arms, we forever changed the context. now, when i see the way we look at each other in that long-ago slow dance, i see a future, a possibility.
a memory reborn, reclaimed, all in the space of a picture.