Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Remember You; Remember Me

I suppose I write this because the memories of yesterday can be, if nothing else, bittersweet. And sometimes I like it that way.
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Efad leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes tiredly. The paper-in-progress that was open on her computer screen just sat there, waiting for her to finish a sentence that, she decided, was going nowhere. With a quick frown and a flick of the Backspace button, the sentence disappeared. Good riddance to bad writing.

The record that had been playing now fell silent, and the record player gave a -click- as it turned itself off. Efad listened to the sounds coming in from her open window for a moment, debated putting on another record, and didn't stand up. Instead, she allowed herself to be distracted by glancing around her desk. College hadn't had the effect on her that she had hoped: in spite of her best efforts to learn how to keep a tidy workspace, her desk was quite messy. That wouldn't surprise anyone who had ever seen her room back home; in fact, if anyone from home had seen her desk just then, they would have marvelled that bits of the desktop were still visible.

And there, peeking out from behind the pile of notebooks and papers, was a picture frame.

Efad reached and plucked it from its hiding place. She felt a pang of guilt as she realized, judging by the layer of dust that came with it, she had placed it on her desk upon her return to Covenant this past August and then forget all about it. It was a simple silver frame with a whispy black design of curves and spirals; she had probably received it as a graduation gift two years ago. In it, she had placed a picture of a group of smiling people kneeling, crouching, and standing in a huddle on a beach. At the top in curvy white letters was the inscription "Panama City Beach, 2003". Efad smiled a little at the picture. She knew all the faces that were grinning back at her. They were all, at one time or another, members of her church youth group, including the youth director. She herself was in the picture as well, in the tee-shirt and overshirt she still owned, and a faded blue hat she had retired into her keepsake box back home.

...a moment captured in time...

"What'cha looking at?"

Efad looked up. Her roommate's chair, which had previously been unoccupied, now held a smiling young man. He was still wearing his normal blue "NIKE" tee-shirt, ripped jeans, and sandals, even though the occasional breeze from the open window told Efad it was well below sixy (or even fifty) degrees outside. Had it been anyone but Aaron, she would've thought the boy to be crazy, if not a little bit cold.

She smiled at him. "Hullo, Aaron."

"Hey." He craned his neck to look at the picture frame. "Wow, what a flashback. Where'd you find that?"

"On my desk. I-- oh, stop laughing."

Aaron choked down what otherwise would've finished a loud laugh, but couldn't suppress the rest of the grin. "Sorry. What happened to keeping a cleaner desk this year?"

"I like keeping things where I can find them." She looked at the piles. She had taken no great pains to make sure they were organized by both height and chronology: the tallest piles were clearly the oldest. "I'm afraid they're just not always in retrievable form."

"I see." Aaron hesitated, then shifted to lean his elbows on his knees. Efad didn't notice; she was looking at the photograph in her hand. He cleared his throat, and she jumped a little. "You, um... you okay?"

"Am I... uh, yeah. I guess so." She looked at the picture again.

...a moment captured in time; put the memory in a frame, keep it safe...

Aaron nudged her chair with his foot. "You sure?"

"Yeah." She didn't look up. "...I just can't believe how much as changed since this picture was taken."

"Ah."

Yes. There they were, all grinning and carefree on just another summer retreat... Efad brushed the cold glass with her fingertips; they started at the top row, moved down along all the happy faces to the next row, then the next, then the last, tracing a snakelike line in the dust. "I remember this year. This was the summer before my sophomore year of high school..." Her fingers started at the top again, resting on a dark-haired boy in a white shirt. "Joseph's actually smiling... he came from Baton Rouge to go to RYM with us." She felt so silly, telling Aaron things he undoubtedly already knew. Any of her memories would be his as well. She went on anyway. "He and his family were in Prattville the summer before last. He was trying to quit smoking, and got mad at me when I found cigarettes in his backpack... and when we all went to Wal-Mart, he rode the kiddie carousel for laughs." She was grinning in spite of herself now. "I still wish I'd gotten a picture of that."

There was a pause from the other chair. "Have you heard anything since the last update from his dad?"

Her grin faded. "...he's probably still recovering from the accident. He... he shouldn't've even survived, y'know, the way that eighteen-wheeler hit him. It's a miracle he did at all."

"Yeah, I know." Aaron looked back at the photograph and chuckled. "And there's John and Nate and Marie -- I didn't know all three Layor cousins went in 2003."

Of course, she knew he was lying, but Efad went with it anyway. "They did. Marie's married and has a little boy now... John is off in the army, and Nate's still back home." She paused. "I had better call John soon. His brother's fourteenth birthday would've been tomorrow."

"Yeah." Aaron looked at his feet. "To be honest, I thought you weren't going to make it dry-eyed through the funeral visitation."

Efad let her eyes drift out of focus as she stared at John's grinning face. "I didn't."

...a moment captured in time; put the memory in a frame, keep it safe, let it watch the world change...

"Soren and Rebecca look happy."

"They do." Efad looked at her two best friends. "Rebecca and Soren's cousin are going to the same college now. Rebecca's probably going to get engaged to that boyfriend of hers, too." She sighed. "I don't even know where half of these people are now... see these three girls?" She pointed. "They've disappeared from my radar. Last I heard, this one was going to college, this one was in a foster home, and this one... I think she graduated high school with Nate, but that's the last I've heard of her."

Aaron took the picture frame from her hands and put it on top of the desk. He smiled at her and tousled her hair. "I guess a picture can be worth a thousand words, then." He crouched down beside her and made her look at him. "E, it doesn't do you well to dwell on the past. You know how melancholy you get when you do."

Efad nodded once, solemnly. "I know."

Then Aaron was gone. The room was silent again, and Efad was left with her thoughts, her laptop (which had gone to screensaver), her messy desk, and her picture frame. She took it in her hands again, brushing her fingers over the familiar faces squinting in the Florida sun.

She wondered what it would be like to go back; travel back to a time when nothing really mattered... A time before death and tragedy had invaded the quiet little community she had once known.

What if Joseph hadn't been in that horrible car accident?
What if John's little brother hadn't shot himself?
What if friends hadn't drifted apart?
What if she had stayed?

What then?

"If we're not supposed to dwell on the past," she murmured, "why do we keep it stowed away in picture frames?"

A picture is a moment captured in time; put the memory in a frame, keep it safe, let it watch the world change around its glass sanctuary.

1 comment:

The Sheep said...

Nice post, Elizabeth. It reminds me of my old church's youth group and our summer trips to Panama City Beach. I haven't talked to any of them in a long time; kinda makes me sad. :(