A few years after we broke up, I asked my first love if he still had the nude photo he took of me before my 19th birthday in his tiny two-room flat. “Of course,” he said without missing a beat. “Why would I ever throw that away?”
I know that you are supposed to be worried by the possibility of ending up on a revenge porn site, or how you would feel if your future children saw it, but I was relieved to know that he kept that picture with him.
You can’t see it in the photo, but it was raining that day. We had been playing double solitaire on the floor until he accused me of cheating and got up to smoke. He walked into the other room to be alone.
As I cleaned up the cards, I knew that in roughly 7 minutes he would return, we would fight, and it would quickly spread to other issues and infect the entire evening. In order to avoid all that, I slipped out of my clothes. When he came back I was wearing nothing more than the deck of cards.
For a second, he paused in the doorway, as a stupid grin spread across his face. Then he rushed towards me, but stopped himself short of touching. He pulled out his phone and snapped the grainy photo in the dim light. Then he played a meticulous game of 52-card pickup, making sure to remove each card in order of number and suit.
There is tremendous comfort in photography, because it can capture us at our best – even if it only lasts a moment.
From the way his eyes lit up when I asked him if he still had it, I knew that he didn’t remember that we fought that morning or the ugly things we said to each other in the days after.
The photo was the eye of the storm, where he was attentive, I was charming, and we were happy. You wouldn’t know that he told me he didn’t want to kiss me anymore or that my voice went hoarse after I yelled at him to hide how much it hurt. No, I got to be immortalized as the girl covered in cards, and I’m thankful for that.
You just have to remember not to envy the girl in the picture. Because people who would never pay you a compliment in real life will faun over your photo, and the ones you loved will hold on to her long after they let you out of their arms.
Still, it’s a great snapshot that can only get better, as we continue to forget the painful details, until all that’s left is a grainy photo and a grin.
Angela Waters is an American jazz singer-turned-journalist, who is always curious about how to do things herself, from making the perfect Sidecar to carpentry.