I was never romantic enough to offer you my umbrella. Of course, where we lived you couldn’t even buy umbrellas for the most part due to the wind. And that isn’t the kind of people that we were. But the point still stands. I wouldn’t have thrown myself in front of the rain for you. It took me years after we had stopped talking before I could admit that to myself.
In the pictures from those days, we are always together. We’re looking down the tracks, we’re looking out at the waves. The photos make it seem as if we are looking out together. The photos seem conclusive. They show parts of our bodies locked together, our limbs in lockstep, show our eyes looking the same direction, out over the same landscapes.
There was the night that you snuck into my bedroom through the window and woke me with your cold hand in my shorts. There was the night I called asking if I could do the same because I was afraid of what would happen if I just showed up. Because I was that little bit less sure of the trust we were trying. There was the night that I passed out on your lawn because I couldn’t even call.
In the photographs, though, we were so bright. So freaking vivid. Enough so that when I saw you years later, I couldn’t believe how quiet you were, how faint. Across the room, you nearly faded into shadow.
We live with apologies stuck in our throats. We live having to know what kind of people we are underneath the flash of the camera, underneath those moments when we force the smile. For me, though, that moment was a long note of forgiveness. That fade, fade thing that you managed. Watching you shrink like that from my vision.
C.C. Russell has published his poetry and prose widely in such journals as The Meadow, New York Quarterly, The Colorado Review, Split Lip Magazine, and Whiskey Island among others. He has been nominated for several Pushcart prizes and for Best of the Net. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, daughter, and cats.