On this faded photo, your smile says it all.
Here you are, between the distant weddings of even more distant cousins, smiling and laughing, your head thrown backwards in the sun. This faded picture tells it all, the person you were then, the person you will never be again.
It was a bitter-sweet moment, sitting like this, leafing through old albums of old pictures showing people who are long gone, those who died and those who changed forever, people who can’t be found again. Time had given colours its blurry filters, softening the edge of their faces, mellowing the crude blues of the beach scene, the kind of patina we try to recreate instantly with our Instagrams, in total vain for nothing can replace the years going by, the dust settling, the tears staining corners.
The more I went deep in your past, the more my disbelief grew: was it you, this dimpled groom, was it really you, this cheerful person? Or were pictures lying, the way they usually do, barely grasping one angle of the reality of that day, of that moment? What if the instant shot had seized what seemed like happiness, while inside your heart was breaking, or you were annoyed, or grumpy, or simply tired? You’re smiling, and that smile shields your emotions in better ways than a mask would have. I can’t find you in that picture.
They say a picture can say a thousands words, but words can describe all the nuances, all the hidden, concealed feelings one doesn’t want to show. Pictures are always kept to help us relieve happy memories, retracing who we are, rewriting our history in a way that is always embellished. Glossy pictures building a life of parties and celebrations and fun holidays, shelving aside the pain, the divorces, the separation, the grief of death. A shiny life, stripped of its honesty. The one picture I keep close to my heart is a Polaroid of my mother the day after I was born. She’s deathly pale, she seems exhausted, no posing, no make up, no theatrical set up: she’s just lost half her weight of blood, she’s happy, yes, but Christ she’s entitled to be tired and she won’t smile at the indelicate person taking that picture. There it is. Honesty. It’s out there in the open, it’s raw and brutal, but it’s real and it doesn’t lie.
Like your smile on that picture, your smile on that faded picture concealing the hurt and fear buried deep inside, your smile not letting on the person you were to become.
And I wonder. I can’t help but wonder and it’s doing my head in: was it really you? Or were you already the person you became, this sliver of the man you were?