I have a thousand pictures of a girl I don't know.
I look at her sometimes. The face is familiar. The eyes look like mine, so much so...that sometimes I could swear it was me only her smile is unrecognizable. Sincere and straightforward. Vastly different from the one I currently wear. Labored. Preoccupied. Tethered.
What I wouldn't give to know her again. What I wouldn't give to feel the way a skin folds upright without such an effort. So freely, like there's nothing behind it.
There is this picture of us, before you died. Our last holiday season as non-bereaved. We were on our way to your brother's Christmas program and we stopped for dinner at Filomena's. They started on the calamari and I looked to my left.
Something told me to take a picture. Some voice or something, so content and satisfied and so intoxicated by the smell of the garlic bread, said to take a picture of this. This right here. There were twinkle lights outside and we were running late, and your brother didn't want to sit still and your father and I were arguing about the gas bill between bites but I can't remember the last time I was that happy. I can't remember the last time I wished for money or clothes or a car or diamonds. I can't remember the last time I caught my reflection and wanted to take a picture. I can't remember the last time I wanted to.
So much of this life is wanting to move forward. When you died I wanted to be farther from it. I wanted to fast forward to the part of my life where there was a scab over you. New flesh to cover the gaping hole that was my heart, to be nicked and caught and torn open again, sporadically, certainly, but to be mostly closed and mostly functional. And that's how I would describe the girl I see in the pictures now. Mostly closed and mostly functional.
I miss the old me.
The laugh and the confidence and the non-bated breath. I miss the girl who never held a dead baby. I miss her innocence and her approachability. I miss her daydreams and her conventional anecdotes. I miss the black and gray plaid coat she'll never wear again.
The day after you died I observed myself in the mirror for five whole minutes. There was a photo session at the hospital and then I walked into the bathroom. I remember looking at my clothes and being unsure as to how I'd gotten dressed, how I'd managed the black fuzzy sweatpants and the white t shirt with the Budweiser logo down the sleeve. I remember noting the differences then, the sudden alarm. All of the creases and the colors and the apathy. All of the proof that you had died, there in the glass in front of me.
Something said to take a picture. Take a picture of this right here, so that you always remember. So that you never forget. What it feels like to lose.
What it's like to hold on.