No Photos of Us
There are no photos of us and maybe that’s not so bad. I’m glad we met before Facebook and Instagram and phones with cameras. I indulge in nostalgia enough. But now and then, you’ll sidle into my thoughts and make me wish I could see us: in color, sepia, or black and white, just slightly more defined than the vaguely remembered sketches in my mind.
There are no photos of us. No snapshots of our midnight bike rides. No record of our hallway strolls listening to my iPod, your lean Eastpack, and my overflowing Kipling bouncing on our backs as we half-walked, half-danced to class. No graphic evidence of the sticky summers by the lake spent jumping from the pier, eating strawberries, and getting sunburnt.
No, there are no photographs of any of that. There’s barely any record really. I’ve long since lost our SMS chats, always cut short by my credit running out. I wouldn’t know where to look for our evening MSN conversations, though closing my eyes I can almost see the glow from the screen. Somehow, I can still recall that tiny red font you liked and the angsty status I stole from Grey’s Anatomy: “Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, it’s a fucking ocean.” 15 years later, it still rings true.
It makes sense; you hated photos and so did I. You were weird about your hair and I was self-conscious about my smile. I guess songs became our photographs.
We played and replayed Sum 41’s instrumental intros; we listened to Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Goldfinger, Yellowcard… so much teenage angst. Blink-182 was your favorite band and “Feeling This” your favorite tune. We must have heard it a thousand times, and if I play it now I can picture that look of intense concentration you’d get listening to the intro drums. I preferred Good Charlotte. You didn’t really like them, but you always sang along to the lyrics of “The Little Things.”
The little things, little things made me who I am today.
It wasn’t just punk. Thinking back, there are many different albums of us. The first song I ever heard you play with your band was “Sweet Child ’O Mine” when you were still a friend of a friend. That guitar intro will always take me to the school gym, sitting on the wooden floorboards, looking up at you with a face-splitting grin.
We listened to Juan Luis Guerra in the car with your mum on the drive back from the pantomime. I sang along with her, and she told you, “I like this girl.” Funny how it meant the world at the time.
A bunch of us stole into the music room at school and you played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with your band. I’d never heard Nirvana, but when you asked me, I lied. Little white lies to seem cool in your eyes. I wanted you to like me.
When Stadium Arcadium came out, we went to the record store to check it out even though we’d already heard the iTunes preview and it was too expensive for us to buy. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking at album cover art. We bought candy and ate it at the park, swaying in the swing sets till it got dark.
I remember you telling me that “Honey and the Moon” was the most romantic song in the world. You loved that line: If you weren’t real, I would make you up, now. I didn’t know if you were flirting. I think I might have made fun of you for that because when I hear it now I can see your bashful shrug, that cliché gesture of shaking your head to get the hair out of your eyes.
“Know Nothing” by Travis was playing for our first kiss, the joke isn’t lost on me. It was a random soundtrack song in the background of a movie we were not watching. I haven’t heard that song since, but the film A Lot Like Love will always remind me of you.
Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” was playing at the record store where we took the pile of Whitesnake stickers. We’d just learned I was moving away and we stuck them all over town so you’d see them on your ride home and have something to remember me by.
On my last night in the city, “Ocean Avenue” played in the background as we sent sleepy text messages that said everything except goodbye.
We’ll be together for one more night. Somewhere, somehow.
How literal was I?
I love the soundtrack of us. Eclectic and unlikely, sometimes angry and sometimes romantic. Dark adolescent moods and fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark tunes. It makes me miss you and wish we’d stayed in touch. It makes me wish I had at least one photograph of us.