The cutting room floor of memory

by thanklemons

“I think your face has changed.”

We were sorting through my old photographs in the new apartment. The slightly uneven edges were apparent, and I remembered cutting the glossy paper at Kinko’s the year before. I’ve never been good at making a straight edge.

“I mean, since you cut your hair. Your face changed. Is that possible?”

C laughed a little. I laughed with her. “You’re not the first to say it. I guess it must be true.”

Scrutinizing my features, we were both quiet for a beat,  the pictures in a line, laying bare the month-to-month, year-to-year, the cascade of minor changes that added up to a different person on the other side. Why does everything look different in slow motion? There were so many things I wanted to say, then, and I held myself back without knowing it. I’ve never been good at sharing.

Now, I think, I look different because I am different; something happened in between, maybe the culmination of many somethings, and I was changed by it. That’s what makes reality, I suppose. When C got up that afternoon, reached across and emptied the folder of all the photos, I saw her differently, if only for a moment. We chose pictures to put up on the walls and we planned our decorations, and we looked back over the years we had known each other, comparing past to present selves and wondering about the passage of time.

“Should we really bother decorating just for this year?” we asked ourselves. Uncertain futures seemed to make a pretty present impractical. Why bother? The year passed quickly, it’s true, but I wish we had bothered more. I wish I had bothered more. If not for the sake of the moment itself, then maybe for the sake of this moment, years later. The present is unbelievably quick – days racing by, time passing without even stopping to wave. But reruns are always on zoom, minute details blown up, telling moments slowed down for dissection. When I think back now on those first days in the apartment, I find myself nostalgic for something I didn’t realize I was losing, didn’t realize I would miss. There’s an aspect to friendship you can’t define, can’t quite put your finger on.

I string up photos now and search the faces, looking for some awareness. Faces preserved by the camera lens beam back, and I want to see in them a gleam of understanding that they preserve for me a moment, a version of myself. But the truth is obscured by the passage of time, and moments themselves are unknowable, mysteriously ambiguous as soon as they pass.

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