You know that mindless bliss? That mindless, goofy, guileless bliss that you only feel when you’re with that person – the one who you think you’ve finally found? This was Ellen’s favourite photograph of herself for half her lifetime because it was taken in the very height of that bliss. She’d posed for countless blissful pictures since then; even ones with her young son (an orthodontist now). But for the longest time, Ellen was confident that if she ever did something great, something that would require recognition, and somebody were to ask her for a photograph of herself to lay claim to her work, this was the one that she would hand to them.
Of course, it would need to be copied. She couldn’t part with this photo. This photo was a depiction of Ellen exactly as she envisioned herself: exuding radiance with a blatant disregard for her surroundings, which in this case were entirely green (a colour that she loathed) and featured her bare feet on carpet (a feeling she regarded with equal disdain).
Long after having forgotten about this photo, in those later years when you’ve become quite certain that there won’t be anyone calling for a photograph of you to lay claim to anything you’ve done, unless of course you’ve died, Ellen found this photo again tucked away in a box. At first, she didn’t recognize the photo as the same one that she’d exalted all those years ago.
She had remembered it differently. She stared at the photo and saw a woman who looked uncomfortable, stuffed into a swimsuit that she disliked, her arms dangling like rotund noodles at her sides, her hair looking rather like a large black towel draped on her head, and those feet… her feet on the carpet! Even the thought still made her shudder. She stared at the photo and wondered at how strange it was to see something entirely different in herself than she had as a younger woman.
Her thoughts lingered for a moment longer, and then diverted as she took a sip of pink lemonade with room in her mind presently for only one thought: I’m going to be needing a new picture.
Story by Anna Sachs
There is nothing about this picture that isn’t hideous: the green of the room, the black tent of a bathing suit and that frightening mop of hair on an overweight me. Yet, with all that to pick from, what I find most distressing is my smile. I had convinced myself it was a happy honeymoon.
Every time I look at this thing I wish I had magical powers. If I did, I’d put on my cape and travel back in time to room #309 at the Colony Hotel in Miami Beach. It would be 10:00am on Saturday, July 16, 1982. I’d knock on the door and bathing-suited barefoot me would answer. That sunny smile would slowly fade into puzzlement, perhaps a glimmer of recognition, a thought that this slender stranger looked vaguely familiar and perhaps she should know me.
My magical powers would calm her down and I’d take her hand and we’d go outside to sit under the wide blue awnings that stretched over the sidewalk along Ocean Drive. There we’d have a cup of coffee and I’d introduce myself. Of course, there would be shock and disbelief. Who imagines meeting their same self from 30 years in the future? But that earlier me would accept it–sort of–because her curiosity would get the best of her. “What are you doing here?” she’d ask. To that, I would say: Marie, let me tell you about me, about your life three decades from now. You will be insanely happy with your husband and you will be enjoying a very successful career as a journalist. But . . . the man you just married will bring you ten years of hell and you won’t start truly living until the divorce. Please, save yourself a lot of tears and sorrow. Get out now.
But then this older, smarter me would probably stop mid-sentence because I’d suddenly wonder: if I had ditched that loser ten years earlier than I did, would everything have turned out the same?
Story by Will Conway