Friday, April 8, 2011

Snapshots of a Life

Running down a darkened hallway, peals of laughter singing through the air as they race toward an unknown destination.

A small schoolroom in the basement of a church. Three rows of desks, six chairs per row, split into two sections, an aisle in the middle. Some of the chairs are already filled, the young boys, kicking their feet, legs not yet long enough to reach the ground. One boy stands as the end of the aisle, heart beating fiercely in his chest at all the unfamiliar faces.

That same boy, years later, on a playground outside the church. A girl is with him as they share a swing set. Her brown pigtails fly out behind her as she sails higher and higher into the sky. The uniform she wears compliments her perfectly and he stares, watching her win the contest they'd been playing. Her smile, big, white, perfect, entrances him. He can think of nothing else at that moment. A new feeling, unfamiliar, but not unwelcome.

That same boy, that same girl. Standing on a front porch. His? Hers? He doesn't remember. All he remembers is the feel of her soft skin against his hand as she steps out the door. That same smile, big, white, perfect, lips redder this time, stretched across her glowing face. The yellow, knee-length dress she wears flutters in the breeze, revealing a small peek of her perfectly formed kneecap. Her eyes shine as she watches him watch her.

Years later, that same boy, that same girl. Back in the church they shared so many memories in. Flowers in her hair, white flowers to match her lovely white dress. The pews are filled with family and friends, but their faces are all blurred, unrecognizable. All he sees is her, standing in the middle of the church on her father's arm, that same smile, big, white, perfect. She's coming to him, to be his forever, and his heart throbs with the joy, the pain, the everlasting love.

A hospital room, that same boy, that same girl, and someone new. Someone perfectly new, perfectly beautiful. A perfect blend of the two of them, nestled in the girl's arms. Her face is tired, drawn, but that smile shines through. The small bundle squirms. Its smooth, unblemished skin, unaffected by the horrors of the world, gleams under the harsh fluorescent lights. The tiny creature's eyes are closed, squinted, its face scrunched as its tiny fists curled into balls no bigger than a cherry, soft nails embedded into the pale flesh.

The big, yellow school bus looms at the end of the driveway. A small hand clenches his, fear seeping between the bond. He gazes down into the small face, lined with fluttering big, brown curls, the little blue eyes wide as she silently begs him to let her stay there forever. Pretty pink plastic backpack hangs limply on the little girl's shoulders, not yet filled to the brim with what life is about to bring her. A yellow sweater, knit by her mother, keeps the cool September breeze from the pale white skin.

Years flash by, images flying too quickly to make sense. Monumental moments delegated to brief glimpses lost within decades of information.

A young girl, white dress flowing around her, beams up into his face. Her perfectly manicured hand rests on his tuxedoed arm, red nails forming perfect squares as the diamond gleams on her third finger. White flowers dance throughout her brown curls. Her smile, big, white, perfect, lips matching her nails. She looks like her mother, he thinks, a smile coming to his own lips. The girl's blue eyes sparkle with unshed tears as the band plays the opening notes, their signal. He's about to lose her forever, and his heart begins to break.

The girl's face is drawn, tired, beaming with unexplainable happiness. Another small bundle squirms in its mother's arms. Smooth, unblemished skin shines beneath the harsh fluorescent lights. The feeling of joy is utterly different from this moment decades ago. It's strong, powerful, but distant in some way. A strange image as both babies lay in the same bed.

More moments blurred into one, dancing, flickering, fading. Time flies by, lost amid events that seemed important, but were a waste in the end. Meetings attended, softball games skipped.

A face, framed by trimmed brown curls. Familiar, unnamed. Lost amid images from the past, images from a swing set and porch. Tears stain her perfect cheeks. The smile, big, white, perfect, tinged with sadness. Her lovely wrinkled hand rests on his face, fear seeping through the bond of skin.

Two girls this time, mirror images, but one is older, more experienced. Confusion. Which is which? Are they the same? Conjured from moments throughout the past, neither real? The girl on the swing set and the girl at the bus flutter in front of him, tear at him, begging to be seen as the women they really are.

The young woman in the yellow dress sits at his bedside. The girl from the school bus no longer comes, the pain of his confusion too much to bear. The young woman grasps his hand, he pulls back. The hand he sees is not the perfect, unblemished beauty he once knew. This hand it wrinkled, aged, spotted. It doesn't not belong on the woman he loves. He sees the sadness in her blue eyes, a heavy burden on them both.

Mere snapshots in an old man's life. Memories. Fading as they reach back into days long past. The boy, once vibrant, joyful, laughing through the halls, lays in his sterile, white-sheeted bed, clouded eyes focused on the harsh fluorescent lights, his last snapshot one of fear, frustration, dejection, death.

**Origin of the story: There are 15-minute writing dashes at Milk Wood in Second Life every day at 5amSLT and 6:30pmSLT. This story is from the 4-8-11 morning dash, using the prompt "snapshot."**

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