I gave her my life, because I couldn’t think of anyone or anything better to give it to.
I always was a little a short-sighted, living only for the next test, living only on the next paycheck, a whole life’s behaviour dictated by the morning weather forecast.
But she had shone brighter than the sun, bought me everything my meagre wage could never afford, and answered all the questions I failed.
I’d never really had any beliefs. If you’d asked me about love, I’d recite some lyrical nonsense that had come from some English crooner a half-century before. I was genuine only so far as I was a replica of a replica.
Some people would call this living. Some people are idiots.
He would look at the photograph for hours, a perfect statue of a man whose gnarled hands would idly scratch his rough stubble of a beard or rest one palm over an eye, as if by denying himself the depth of vision he could somehow see deeper.
But he couldn’t remember ever taking it. His daughter assured him that he did, he had, a great many years now long past. Decades disappeared, across a great gulf of empty memories like someone had taken a razor to the long reel of film in his mind and excised a 40-year chunk of it.
He should be terrified, but instead the experience was one of immense calm, like he’d been drinking enough to lose himself a little. Just a little, just so that he could sit back without feeling the cold claws of his reality. There was no fear in the realization that most of the life he’d lived was missing, for he couldn’t be sure he’d even lived it in the first place.
The woman frozen in the photograph, staring back at him from across all those years, triggered no recognition whatsoever. Caught in profile, features blurred, watching the photographer with sidelong eyes that communicated both annoyance and coy delight in a single glance. She was a vision, whoever she was, or had been. If he’d loved or hated her he knew not now.