What did you think of my story?
You haven’t answered me. Did you read the comments? Were they right, is love cute? Is the photograph of us on the hill as kids truly adorable? I don’t think so.
Maybe you disagree. Maybe you treasure those old memories the same way that you might enjoy taking the kids to the top floor of a tall building and showing them how to crush people on the street below with your thumb and forefinger.
You can’t really do any damage, you know.
The photograph on the hill captured the start of our love. Imagine it as a delicate wrought iron cage, its door left open to let the birthday guests run back inside for cake. Nothing is really locked up yet, just held loosely.
Years pass with the cage door still open. You even escape for a while, leaving me light and wondering. Can you believe that I desperately asked myself, at twelve, if anyone would ever really love me? The answer was always there, a little clue tucked inside my photo album.
At nineteen, when you brought me flowers on my birthday, you were not shy. You snuck up on me quietly in the rain and stashed those flowers inside the cage. I didn’t even notice you slip the door closed.
At twenty-one, you brought me a puppy wrapped up in your shirt and while I was playing with him, you used the new leash to tie up the cage door. You were not shy.
At our private, sunset engagement party, you were bold. You asked the question as if you already knew its answer. You dead bolted the cage with my diamond ring, and I was thrilled to be inside with you.
Now that we are older, the cage is getting full. It’s cluttered with tombstones and birth announcements. Adventures are falling out, littering the floor underneath. The mess has made us both shy, wary. Inside the cage, we stoop down and flip through the pages of our photo albums, searching for that one reminder of what we both really are.
Only the photograph on the hill doesn’t really exist. I made it up.
Is love adorable? I don’t think so.
Ooh, I got Editor’s Pick this week over at Yeah Write. I think that means that I’m doing this right. Thanks so much, guys!
I think the photograph is from my sixth birthday, when I wore my tuxedo swimsuit and sat on my new Strawberry Shortcake bicycle ready to learn to ride. My kindergarten friends are in it, the ones who I carpooled with and played with at recess. My neighborhood friends are there too, lined up on the same hill that we would sled down in winter. You’re there too.
When I think back to when I first started to love you, I think it began that day, in the moment the picture was taken. It’s just a coincidence that the photograph exists, like the photo that your grandma caught of your first steps. The photograph is beside the point. If it did not exist, I would still remember the moment, just as your grandma would clearly remember your first steps. Even without the photo, I would still love you.
My mom wanted to take a group shot of all the kids at the party. The good little Catholic school kids ran to the hill first and sat in a line, me in the middle. The neighborhood kids followed, not to be outdone. But you, you didn’t listen. Looking back on it, knowing how six-year-olds can be, you most likely felt shy. But my mom insisted that you get in the picture. All the other kids were already lined up, so you ran behind the line, right behind me, and you stood there covering your face. My mom snapped the photograph and I started to love you.
It was just a moment, and I don’t remember exactly what happened before or afterwards. I’m sure there was cake and presents, but it hardly matters. The best thing about my sixth birthday party was you. It never crossed my mind at the time that you hid your face because you were shy. No, you covered your face because you were cool. You surprised me and you showed me how to be different.
Now that we’ve been married for a while, I know that sometimes you are shy. When you’re in an unfamiliar group, I can feel your urge to press your hands to your face the same way that you did at my sixth birthday party. But I also know that more often you are cool, that you are not afraid to stand up and do something silly just because you want to. More often, you show me your fun, quirky side.
Whenever I see you like that, you, that boy on the hill, I love you a little more. I know that I am cool too. I know that being with you means that I can do anything and be anyone who I want to, no matter what anyone else thinks. Then I’m glad that my mom took that photograph as proof.