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The Last Photograph

It was almost two in the morning, and sleep was yet to invade her senses. She didn’t mind it much; it only meant she had more time to get things done. Nuvole Bianche played softly in the background, the music floating over her body like a soft caress, a grey feather lightly drawn over the golden skin, a little before dawn when the sky is still indigo. The rain pays the city a visit, and the clouds lazily stretch over the vast sky, unwilling to let the sun pass through, so it leaves them be and smiles elsewhere, on some different people.

She sat cross-legged on the floor, uncaring for the coldness of the tiles. They were the very same tiles she had sat on while unpacking her suitcase for the very first time in her dorm room. These tiles wouldn’t be her host much longer, the room evacuated, memories wiped away. It was in preparation for her impending departure from this small piece of the home she’d had over the past few years that she sat on the floor, littered by little knickknacks she had discovered as she decided what to keep and what to throw. Keychains, identification cards, tickets, coupons, souvenirs from all over the place littered the floor, but her focus was on the album after album of pictures that lay across her lap.

See, these pictures were more than just a mundane attempt to freeze a certain memorable moment in time, they timed themselves. From childhood to the last day of high school, they painted the picture of someone’s life story, and not just one story. There were hundreds of faces in those pictures. Some grainy and forgotten; like the class that had worn cardboard cutouts of glittery flowers around their faces, like the one religious choir she had joined on a whim, the concert from that time they had escaped Switzerland and its overwhelmingly beautiful spring, the morose one taken after her parents’ funeral by the papers, the boy who had loved her and left her and gone on to great things but was still lonely; so many lives and stories all carefully assembled and taken care of inside those albums.

Unshed tears glittered on her lashes like dew on a spider’s web, as she ran a trembling finger across her first award. It seemed like a couple lifetimes ago. As she stared at the photograph, she remembered the combination of nervous excitement, and jitters that had taken her over during that ceremony. The taste of the water she had gulped down, careful not to ruin her lipstick, as well as the celebratory cheering of her teammates across the floor became reality once again. She walked toward the raised platform to accept the award once again, among the beaming faces, and she was home. But like all memories, this one withdrew from her and she was thrown onto the cold tiled floor.

Another picture that lay discarded showed a group of people who had chosen their separate paths. Time had blurred the pain of their having left so suddenly, but it had by no means taken it away. They were so happy. The pure, unaltered, joy was reflected in their relaxed stances, in their wide, toothy smiles, arms around each other. Was it possible to be so oblivious to the misfortune that would strike as soon as they were done taking that picture? They barely had time to look it over, and time had wrenched that happiness from them as soon as it got the chance! It was what had occurred between those fateful two days that had forever torn apart their love and trust for each other. She didn’t begrudge them their endings, which weren’t endings at all, but beginnings, but a little, heartbroken part of her wondered: what if they all had tried to keep it – them – together? Maybe if they hadn’t deserted all those memories, they would still be together. Maybe she should’ve shown them that picture. Then again, they had all moved on, and she was still tearing up over a past life.

At last, she put down the one picture she had held onto the longest. At first glance, it was a family picture. At a closer look, one realized that the squirming child with the devious little face was really the woman who held the pictures in her hands. The resemblance between the man and the other boy was not to be overlooked either. They too, were frozen in this picture; content, alive, and so impeccably human. Human is as human does, and all men must perish and dissipate back into the sands of time, and the unrelenting waves of the alluring sea. It calls to us mortals, as all things profound and wonderful, deadly and desirable. It sings the songs of our ancestors, sometimes in a soft lull at dawn and others in a turbulent storm at midnight. Regardless of which song appeals to each of us, it will always appeal to the best of us. And like the family in that picture, it was time to be washed away by the sea. It was time to return back to being a child in her mother’s iron grasp.

She efficiently fastened all that she had chosen to keep and give into different piles, that were stamped, addressed, and sometimes sewn shut.

It was that indigo time, droplets of rain splattered here and there. She climbed to the edge of her balcony and sat there softly humming a song everyone had once sung together. She’d bring them all in one place, even if this time, she would be the one leaving. The breeze combed through her hair as she stood up, not unlike her mother’s fingers. The tip of the sun peeked from underneath the horizon, as if edging closer for one last ray to shine upon her form. She smiled fondly at it, like an old enemies crossing paths decades later.

She maneuvered slightly to the left, and then she was falling. The wind took her breath away as the sky slipped through her fingers. The clouds would not allow the sun to rise, and rain pelted down hard in reminiscence of the one who had thought to remember them all.

Far away, the sea yowled in melancholy.

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