There aren’t too many photos of us that exist in this world anymore.
Even when cellphones started getting built-in cameras, even after the incarnation of the selfie, you and I stayed old-fashioned. We were never were the type to try and catch our moments. Instead, we lived them, believing there would be enough time for pictures later.
When we broke up I didn’t have a memento of your face that I could stare at when I needed to remember. My last real memory was the parking lot, a stolen kiss, and the sight of you walking away. There was one more, after that. But it’s too sad to write about.
Perhaps another day.
We have seen each other intermittently over the last seven years but I cannot draw up the details of you that I once was able to, the parts I could summon up without even trying. What’s left no longer exists. You and I have changed so visibly over time: gotten fatter, needed glasses, re-visited braces, became a husband, became a father, became a teacher, found the stuff of life.
Earlier today, while going through old boxes, I found this picture that you drew of us.
You drew a few portraits of me and yes, I still have them. You were never brave with words and your sketches, I realize now, were all the things you could not say. The amount of detail you put into capturing my face, my eyes, my smile, and the way my hair fell over my ears — these were so clearly a 16-year-old boy’s bold admission of love.
You drew a few portraits of me but this was the only one that attempted to capture the both of us. I can imagine you hunched over your desk late at night, listening to an obscure rock band, slender fingers gripping the pencil, as you took careful strokes to immortalize us on the blank page of your sketchbook.
You knew my face so well — once upon a time, weren’t we so stupidly in love? — that you weren’t the least bit afraid to draw me. I came out nice and whole. Not perfect but a good rendition of my high school self.
I can imagine the frustration you had when you tried to sketch your face, the hours you took trying to get it just right. I can imagine the pressure building up then eventually spilling over until you finally just resigned.
I don’t know why I have this drawing but I’d like to think I asked for it.
It is unfinished but when I squint my eyes I can fill in the blanks. There you are. That big smile. The eyes that crinkle at the ends. The boy with the dumb jokes and the brilliant mind, who took too little photos yet had enough sentiment to spend his midnights with pencil lead on his fingers.
I wonder if you’ve ever attempted to draw yourself again.
Maybe tonight you will. Maybe your almost-30-year-old self will take up the pencil and bust out the sketchbook and, after more than a decade, try. Just one last time. I hope you come up with more than just a half-drawn boy. I hope for laugh lines, that same big smile, the glow of good health. I hope you capture the trappings of a wonderfully good life. Keep your love language, your scratchings on blank canvas.
I, for one, am glad I did.