Thomas Kearnes

This is how I keep you: a glossy print placed between the world I have known and the world I will know. Six inches tall, four inches wide. You stand before the lens in jeans and a black pullover. Your right hand grabs your left wrist, both arms diving down to a V in front of you. Head turned to the side so it's impossible for me to remember whether the shy smile crossing your face like a late afternoon shadow was meant for me or expressed the awkwardness you felt when I insisted you hold still.

"I'm right here," you said. You twisted and untwisted the rubber band looped twice around your wrist. The light bulb left a hot white stain on your cheek.

"I might forget you," I said, my camera aimed at you.

"How? I'm looking at you." At that moment, this was true.

"But when you're gone..." I didn't finish. The best photographers take their subjects by surprise. I waited until you started to relax then pressed the button.

You turned your head back to me, your eyes wet.

Giving you what I hoped was a smile, I said, "In case I don't see you again."

I never did see you again, but here you are, always marking my place in a stranger's story. Your image rests between my future and my past; I cannot move forward again through time without looking upon your face.

First published: November, 2006
comments to the writer: Knob'