Photos are funny things. I depend on them to mark history, yet I don’t really trust them. Photos have their own agenda.
I spent the two weeks before vacation polishing a chapter, a single chapter, in the memoir. It’s always been one of those “trouble chapters,” one I’ve written and rewritten about two dozen times, one where I finally had to decide if I should just kill the fucking thing, put it out of its misery, and move on.
In the end, the chapter was saved by a photograph. I saw a photograph that triggered the right memory, started rewriting again, and two-plus weeks later the trouble chapter set itself, finally, like a stone pillar into my story.
Yesterday I picked up the giant stack of mostly junk-mail that accumulated while we were gone. One envelope contained nineteen 3×5 snapshots from my first wedding. My stepmother found them in a drawer and thought I’d like to have them.
One photo was a surprise. Me, 25 years old. Me, wearing only my veil, bra, and panties. Me, looking frozen, stunned, holding my tanned arms out like a scarecrow, hands dangling, helpless. I look like I’m waiting for someone to hang me up on the post.
I’ve never seen this picture. I hardly recognize myself. I keep looking at it and wondering, “who is that girl?”
Does this ever happen to you?