A Thousand Words Couldn’t Save Us by Virginia Cardoza

Standing by the fire, the warmth
radiates on my skin. In my hands,
a worn shoe box, still covered in dirt
from being buried years ago.
Slowly, I marvel over its contents- a ball of
yarn, bracelets, letters, stickers,
a plastic ring that was once blue.
At the bottom, a photograph of you smiling,
my young-self looking up at you.

I hated that you liked Polaroid pictures,
it wasn’t the nineties anymore.
You held me close,
I was engulfed with the
warmth your body brought.
Holding the camera, your lips curved,
your eyebrows tilted up, your eyes broke the
contact, looking at the lens instead.
Then you clicked the shutter button.

I didn’t get to say cheese.
But then I remembered I didn’t like Polaroid
pictures. Your bright eyes met mine, then
our lips met. Bringing the camera up again,
you clicked the shutter button.
I stole the camera later and hid it from you,
you never found it.
But I kept the pictures for memories,
just in case.

The fire no longer warms me, not the way
you used to. I was safe then.
You have a wife to hold, I know.
A family of your own. I have one too.
Your wife probably got you a new camera.
I still don’t like Polaroids, though.
The fire is cooling now, and with it
the memories. Reality brings me home.
I let the picture go and watch it turn to ash.

–Virginia Cardoza

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