an old photograph
He kept her photograph hidden in a bureau drawer, underneath a layer of shirts. Although he lived alone, no one was sifting through his clothes, and had few visitors, he didn’t want to be found out through some sort of accident. He was afraid that if her photo were visible in his room, her face might be seen in the reflection of his glasses when people looked at his eyes, as if stamped there—and then, they’d know.
He saved that picture for 47 years; he grew old, but she didn’t. He kept the picture so he wouldn’t forget how her brown eyes spoke words. Seeing her face helped him remember the sound of her laughter too, but after time, he struggled to remember the exact sweetness of her voice. At least he didn’t want to forget her face.
He’d pull out the framed photo when he felt especially lonely and dream the “what-if” dreams. What if she had been his bride, and they would be together, now, in this drafty old house, shuffling across the faded wool carpet together? What if she sat next to him, watching the TV buzz with noise at night? What if he had her company, had someone to converse with at the table… this was his recurring dream. His longing was only that—an unfulfilled story that found him left alone on the sofa again, putting his dreams to sleep and waking up to the nightmare of realizing he was alone.
She married someone else. She moved away, and then… his heart bled. Or maybe, that was really when his heart dried up.
Because he had not asked.
He went to a bar on her wedding day to try to forget. Yet, he could not; he found her still there the next morning– and the next, and the next, and it continued on for years. He decided not to throw her photo away, but to keep it. In keeping it, he kept a little flame of hope alive, which kept a small piece of himself alive, a part of him that dared to believe some dreams could still come true. It was the dream, the photo, and that spark of hope that on some days forced his heart to pump and his lungs to exhale.
When he died, his belongings were sold, along with the picture. Maybe he thought he loved her well, better than anyone could, from inside the four walls of his little home… and just maybe, he did. But, he never asked her, and now someone else scribbled numbers on a scratched frame with the picture of a pretty face, offering his own price tag on a silent love.