I found the box at the back of the desk in the study. A large storage box full of little boxes of photos. There was a photo I was trying to find that I took years ago but you know what it’s like when you’re looking for a specific photo with no library indexing system or chronological order. It’s not like now where you can open up your Facebook albums or a copy of iPhoto and go straight to the year it happened. These were prints from a film camera. Developed at cost and a free sticker from Boots should the photo be over exposed. It just meant going through every single box and flicking through every photo.
I was in a good frame of mind and that was a good thing. I did find the photo after about ten or fifteen minutes but it came at a price. A whole decade or more of memories and smiles. Every photo containing an incident of some kind. “Oh god, I remember that.” and “What on earth were we thinking.” Sometimes because of what we’d done or some of the clothes we’d worn. Always pushing the boundaries in our twenties. Trousers with ever more bold stripes that might get us noticed more in some, what now, is really a crappy night club.
The thing is not one of these photos contain Hannah. Sure, I’m there, but it’s covert. Looking at some of them I see little bits of me unconsciously trying to show myself for who I am. A rather feminine expression on my face, body language, a glint in my smile or just a look in my eyes. I wonder how no one ever saw it. May be I’m the naive one and everyone saw it and they just didn’t like to say. I remember when I first introduced Maddie to my family. Later that day my grandmother said, “We were starting to wonder.” Thanks!
Some of the photos are insane. Cameron, that friend you might remember from a previous blog with all the luck, charm and money – a chancer if you like, stands there in his expensive threads next to his new sports car. Never jealous of his success or indeed his losses, in fact I could be quite inspired by it even if it wasn’t always justified. The fact he got on with things rather than mope negatively about any and everything. He wasn’t smug in anyway but it was all about his presence that he enjoyed. Right down to the glasses he wore to improve his appearance of intellect which he didn’t need to wear – mainly because they had plain glass. It brought a smile to my face even though I miss his friendship since he left the country.
I flicked through the photos that were so well preserved and glossy that they looked like they were taken yesterday. That soft smell of printed ink rose from the pile of photos as I pulled another bunch out. They lacked the crayon mustard and browns of photos from the 70’s because by the 90’s photos were vibrant and kept well but they didn’t loose their nostalgia. It made their nostalgic effect ever more present. I didn’t need to look through any more photos, I already found what I needed, but the want to look is addictive once you get started. An ever pull and push of on to the next with memories racing to the front. Memories that I’d forgotten that I didn’t even realise I was still holding on to in the archives of my mind.
Then photos of Maddie’s and me appeared. Sharing a meal in a restaurant. Moments trying the others food off their fork; though being a romantic meal for two I do wonder who had taken the photo. A barbecue on the beach with sea weathered logs keeping a fire going at sunset and Maddie looking into the camera with her long pony tails and not a sign of charcoal grubbiness on her face unlike me. Pure rustic romance.
Happiness turned to emotions of loss and sadness. Beautiful photos that on close inspection contained a look from both of us in alternating photos that I could quite clearly see that what can only be described as the love in their eyes. There is something about that look that overrides everything that is happening in the photo. The other may be laughing about something and yet the eyes of the other looking right through everything in that moment. It’s that rest of your life look when you know that is the person.
I had to stop looking through the photos. I tried a few more but I felt the sadness rising. It was loss, in fact grief. No one had died but the relationship had. Despite everything both of us have done since there is a very real loss of something that was good. It wasn’t just grief for my loss but also for Maddie’s loss of the person in the photo that she knew before I told her. I still care enough that I realise everything she had gone through as well. A strong relationship as well as the loss of our youth. Our mid-twenties. The best times of my life even if not particularly the most productive.
This is the price we can pay for our natural inner core that tells us we’re not the right gender. Something I couldn’t contain or ignore because it would just come back. Something I risked my relationship for and lost. Something Maddie lost. While now, just a couple of days later and with the feeling of grief subsided, even though with everything I’ve lost, I can at least smile now and then at some of the amazing experiences I did have. The endless opportunities that arose even after throwing in the towel on other things like jobs and occasions just to find something better with caution really thrown to the wind. I have been so super lucky. It might not have been everything I wanted but it was everything and more.
Until next time.