I shoved the stack of books in my attic as an attempt to clear some space on my book shelf. I reached for the topmost shelf in the dusty and deserted wooden cupboard left in the corner of my attic. There were some shopping bags with toys from when I was five and some clothes of my little brother played with when he was a suckling infant. I tried to force clear some space for these books I didn’t need anymore but I couldn’t fight against the force of the over-packed cupboard; a paper bag full of albums slid through the top tumbling in its downfall hitting my head first and then my knee. I yelled an “ugh” and knelt down to get that now broken bag with pictures spilled over the floor like water. I picked each one and put it in a box I managed to find.
Half way through the clean up I found a picture in a blue shirt that said the word “adorable”. I had thrown this shirt in the dumpster a year ago but a picture had recorded a memory of it. The shirt was a gift by someone I didn’t talk to and I wanted to flush every memory of this toxic person down the drain. The picture reminded me I couldn’t even if I wanted to; I was reminded of every walk and every dinner I shared with Jim the moment I saw the picturesque reminder of the shirt. I could do little to erase my past with my ex, and the horrid relationship I shared with anyone, including Jim. Instead of throwing the picture, I put it in the box and started cleaning the rest of the mess.
The pictures included snaps from the extravagant childhood I spent in the UAE’s most commercial and posh spaces. There was one where me and my brother had clenched our fists to the doors of the Prado my father boasted on the streets of Dubai. There was a picture where we were celebrating the New Year near Burj Dubai, with the photograph capturing the fireworks that had lit the midnight sky. Another picture was taken around the world’s biggest aquarium at Atlantis, an exuberant resort that seemed out of this world. It had been ten years since I had traveled now and yet I was the happiest I could be. Looking back in retrospect, I realized how happiness had little to do with price tags. I went back to cleaning the room only to stumble upon a picture of me receiving a medal for my academic performance in tenth grade.
I was standing on the podium in an auditorium wearing a black gown, bending my head downwards for my principal to slide the medal ribbon across my head. It was evident that I was the happiest in that gathering of some five hundred people; the scenes were now flashing through my eyes. But not as happy as I was now even though I had taken a gap year and repeated a year in high school because I couldn’t pass. I wondered how at a point I could never have fathomed failing a class, let alone repeating every class owing to pathetic grades. I laughed, looking at the irony of the times stored in pictures.
As I cleared me the attic I found these memories to take me into a retrospective search within myself. I had seen how much I had grown, how much I had not, how happy I was despite everything. I may have missed out on the myriad of realizations and details had that came to me as an epiphany if it were not for the pictures that reminded me of the past years that made me.
I put the pictures in the box, to put them on the top most shelf. The books could sit somewhere else.