You have a photograph of me. In that photograph, I’m laughing at a joke cracked by an unseen person, my face is lit up, I look pretty. You have another photograph of me. In that one, I’m smiling bravely through a hint of tears. I had got my heart beaten that day and you had been kind to me. You don’t know this but I was smiling because I saw you. You have a picture of me looking seriously at another person as I go through work. There’s one where I’m sleeping on your shoulder on a long bus journey. Even when you see me for hours in a day, you just have snapshots of me, frozen in time, out of context, yet forever true. You say you love me. And I wonder which snapshot of mine you’re thinking of when you say those words.
I’m terrified of the girl in those pictures. That girl is so happy, unfazed by the world, beyond reach and yet, she looks like at any moment she will turn and smile at you. You do love that girl. Who wouldn’t? She is the happiest, brightest, shiniest star in the Universe you occupy. Yet, you don’t see that – just like the star – by the time the light has reached you, the moment is already in the past.
I think that’s the beauty of snapshots. They last. They give you an illusion of eternity. Who wouldn’t want to love someone for eternity, if that’s what it looks like? A series of happy moments, that you will share. There’ll be no hint of worry in her, no insecurity, no incompetence, no qualities that you would consider deal-breakers. She will always be the way she is in any of your favourite snapshots, and you’ll always love her.
And then there’s me. I’m the girl who wonders if you’re telling the truth about love, or if I’ll again lose to my mistress, the snapshot. Will you wake up one morning and look at the real person next to you – the one who’s scared of everything somedays, who is clingy and sometimes needs validation, the mostly inadequate, awkward person (not in the cute gawky way) who lives and breathes mundane like it was going out of style – and wonder what happened to the buoyant, uncomplicated, positive person whose picture you took? Will you reject the person, or the photoshop tool that promised you much more than was there?
In the end, if our house was burning down and you could take just one thing with you, will you come for me or will you try to save the photographs?