I am sitting here, my mind heavy with knowledge it can't quite absorb and reeling from pressure and stress that accompanies an academic lifestyle. I click through old pictures, and your face appears, leading me down a new thread of thought.
My how things have changed.
My how we have grown.
There are miles and miles behind me from the person I was when we met - awkward and untamed and fighting blindly just to survive in a world I was unsure of. There are years, so many more years than I'd realized, between you and these images. Skinnier, younger, less secure. I forgot about the cowlick you had, right on the top of your head, that made your hair go crazy. Why do we notice these things? Or rather, why do I? After all, I can't speak for what anyone else sees. . .
There is so much I'm not prepared for on this test. I need to not procrastinate, the night won't get any younger. . .
Both of us smile, frozen in time as megapixels and data. These pictures exist nowhere else but on our computers, drifting in an endless sea of binary code, our younger selves reduced to less than photostock. We're a blur, only a simple digital blur. The soft blush color of my cheeks isn't the glow of early teenage years, but the careful combination of zeros and ones and dots until an image forms; the same is true of your disheveled hair and laughing face.
A click and we're gone again.
There are forty more slides still to go. Why must the powerpoints be so long? I hate spending my time locked to this screen.
I wonder who we'll be ten years from now. Will there be a baby on someone's hip? A new city beneath their feet? Will we still find a way, somehow, to each other through the impossibilities that life brings to our friendship? Will you be happy, then? Will I? And where will these current selves be - stored digitally thanks to social media, somewhere in the great Other where neither of us can truly erase the file?
Stored as memories shuffled carefully away with our younger selves?
Will this version of me as I am now eventually become nothing more than a digital echo and the vague impression that you once held someone's warm hand against your own cupped palm?
I am so tired. My eyelids are heavy and my heart feels funny, as it always does when these strange reflective moods come over me. I don't think I am old enough to think this way. Am I?
When I am honest I realize I don't miss the old us - not the younger, less secure, more difficult you. Not the frightened, breakable, naive me. I am much happier with the confidence we've both managed to find though we both know it is sometimes hollow. Hollow is good - hollow can be filled. I think of it less as a shell and more as an outline, where the potential can still be reached. We now have lines to color in. And what lines they are. The line of your shoulder is thicker, broader. The spread of your stance more confident, taking up more floor when you enter a room. You've learned to own your space. Quiet confidence suits you.
I on the other hand am still a smudge: a smudge of emotions and thoughts and ideas and colors, a moving blur like a photograph not properly exposed, that person in the back who didn't quite stay still when the photographer said "three." My energy and motion have a direction, now, a goal other than "Away. Run away." This is growth, though it is not the solidifying you've done - if anything I am blurrier and busier than ever. But I think my colors are richer, too.
I really have to tear myself away. There is nothing in these pictures that will help you learn what you need to know, girl. Stop looking at them as though they'll help.
So many things have changed. Why am I noticing them now? How disjointed and jumbled all these thoughts will seem in the morning. How silly I feel even now thinking them to myself. I wonder if I will have the courage to hit the little orange "publish" button in the top corner of this snow white page, the courage to commit this image of myself too. To press it, like a dried flower in the pages of a scrapbook, into the time capsule of myself the internet provides.
I think I will. After all, it's just binary code and digital dreams, right?
Back to the books I go. . .