Photographic Memory

She found the picture stuck in some old photo album, deep in the recesses of a box in a cupboard. She peeled it off the sticky-backed page and asked about it – Who is it? Where is it? When? And then, even though she’d already known, she responded to the answers with ‘Really? Are you sure?’

It seemed to mean so much at the time.

She only saw it that one time and then it got lost. Or more likely it was hidden by someone who didn’t want her to think about it anymore. Someone who was trying to protect her from what it could have meant. What she might imagine it could have meant. But she can still remember it.

A memory, captured on film. Overexposed and faded, like everything that followed.

A shirtless figure backlit by the sun, drawing a high line on the peeling wave face with a thick, stubby board. Golden shadows, glinting light.

The photograph sits in her memory like a tantalising dream – a bent and folded scrap of the past that hints at everything that could have been different in their bent and folded scrap of a relationship.

And now, even though it’s lost (or hidden), it’s hers too – a memory of a memory. A moment from someone else’s life that is indelibly linked into her own, that has become a part of her own. But she wishes it wasn’t. She wishes that it was something real – a memory of a moment. A memory of something that they had shared.

Instead, it was the beginning of the end. It was the last days before the booze, the ciggies, the gambling, the depression. It was the last days before her. After this, after her, it was all gone. No more waves, no more sunlight, no more surfing. A life that traded youth and fun, for middle-age and the pub. Out of the sunlight and into the half-light. This is the part of his life she shared.

But it’s still something to hold onto. It’s something that she could have had. It’s something they could have been together – a different life.