by Deborah Miller-Collins
Like most evenings, I unwind at my computer—check my email, log onto Facebook and start scrolling. I zip past the Which-Breaking-Bad-Character-Are-You quiz, my cousin’s latest anti-Obama rant, and a half dozen George Takei posts.
Then your face pops up.
And stops my heart.
Not your face now, not the fifty-something profile pic I’ve seen almost daily since the Internet reconnected us. Not the face I’ve seen enjoying cookouts, waving kids off to college, kissing that first grandchild. Not the seasoned face that writes friendly comments on my posted pics—vacation photos of my hubby and me or of our now-grown boys. It’s been a blessing, my old friend.
No, this is a photo of that nineteen-year-old boy, my first love, from so long ago. The boy I thought was gone forever. And, oh God, I didn’t know until just now how much I’ve missed him.
His blue eyes look right into the camera—so intense that it feels like he’s looking straight through me. That intensity that melted me so many years ago melts me again. It takes my breath away.
And I realize the girl I was back then, the one I thought was gone forever, is still here, too. After all these years and changes—marriages, kids, career—that fire still burns.
I loved you so.
I let myself sink back into warm feelings of hazy memories. I’d forgotten how young we once were.
Finally, I catch my breath. Unlock my gaze, return to reality.
And see what I had somehow ignored in those first few moments.
You’re not alone in the picture. You and a young woman lean your heads together. She smiles at the camera, too. You both wear those new-love smiles. Your comment reads: I treasure that moment 35 years ago that brought us together. Happy anniversary to the love of my life!
And now I see this post of yours for what it really is. My breathing catches again, and that fire I felt just a moment ago burns with a different heat, just like it did way back when.
All that intensity—it was for her. The girl you started seeing while you and I were still a couple. The girl you dumped me for.
It’s not like I haven’t seen pictures of her before. I’ve seen dozens—of her, of you, your family, your vacations—pictures of your life now, of your grown-up life. Just as you’ve seen me with the love of my grown-up life.
But this picture.
It’s an artifact, really, of that time in my life when you tore my heart out. I haven’t seen that young man in ages; I tore up every picture I had of him when I found out. Every photo, every letter.
The two of you there, sitting on the concrete steps of your parents’ cottage at Myrtle Beach—you met her there, didn’t you? The sun shines, and the day looks warm, though a breeze stirs your hair and hers. You look so happy together. That buttercup she holds, you gave it to her, didn’t you? Did you touch it to her chin first and then kiss her? Did you think of me at all that day? Did she know about me? Did you have anguished talks after a night of love-making about how to deal with me now that the two of you found real love? Did she love you more because it hurt you so much to hurt me?
Did you think about me at all when you posted this, you fucker?
Below the photo, Facebook informs the world that fifty-four people “Like” this photo. Fifty-four people like seeing you two together. The knot in my gut tightens just a bit more.
I click the mouse.
Now it’s fifty-five.
Congrats, you guys, I write. 35 years! Wishing you many more!
Deborah Miller-Collins lives and writes in upstate New York with her husband and two children. You can read more of her work in Empty Sink Publishing’s February 2014 issue, where her story, “The Straight Woman’s Guide to Feminism,” was selected as the Editor’s Choice. In addition, Call, Talk, Lock placed third in Spark Anthology’s “Contest One” and was published in their October/November 2013 issue.