Photo by Burt Glinn
Love is all you need, that’s what we said back then, and I think we believed it, too, really believed it. Just for that summer we did, the whole of that summer. And Ricky was just beautiful then, so beautiful I felt an ache every time I saw him. And I reckon it must be so for everyone when they are young, a time when it’s all so breathless and new, and love is a moon to be landed on and discovered.
And there was this guy with a camera back then and he was always around and he was always taking pictures. He seemed to know what we did not. He seemed to understand that time was fleeting and he wanted to capture each moment and hang it on a wall, like when a butterfly with its wings spread wide is pinned to a board under glass so you can better examine it again and again when the summer’s gone.
Memory is fickle, this guy taking pictures kept saying. The camera is the only truth.
I’ve got some of the pictures he took. Pictures of me and Ricky and that’s how I know he was beautiful, with hair like a girl, and he sticks his fingers up at the camera, in a benediction and in the sign of peace, and behind us on the fence it says in painted letters bigger than we are, love.
And at first I think I feel the same ache as I did back then. A blissful pain just where my heart is, and my head is dizzy, and something in me remembers, and remembers it wrong if that photographer guy was right. Then, as my head clears, I see it different. Not me and Ricky and what we were back then, but the ache I am feeling now.
It is a feeling of loss that I have. And an anger, too, that a time is gone that seemed so new and so important and we just let it go. Love is all you need, we thought, and a part of me still wants that to be true. When I look at my own kids and what they believe and what they hold dear, I feel the loss of something.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that photographer guy was wrong, too. Just think about it, about butterflies pinned down under glass. What part of what’s there is the butterfly and what part is missing? Seeing it like that, it is not really a butterfly at all, for what is a butterfly without it flits from you, out of reach, a torn piece of finest cloth carried lazy on the warm and breathless air? And isn’t it the same for a picture taken with a camera?
I look at me and Ricky, at that me-and-Ricky moment, pinned down and flat, and love painted on the fence behind us, and it’s not all there. He has one arm around me in the picture and the fingers of his other hand blessing the world, and everything’s a little posed and like that there’s something missing.
I close my eyes and breathe in, remembering the smell of him and the smell of his hair, and the air warm against my skin, and kissing Ricky, and kissing him all the time, and our bodies touching, like they fitted so easy together. And that ache I felt when I saw Ricky afresh each day, I remember that, too. And a song on the radio saying over and over and over how love was all we needed.
And in the picture there’s nothing about what came before or what came after, and maybe I remember it wrong and that’s the fault in memory, but at least I remember. And my heart beats faster and I catch my breath and I feel an ache where my heart is, the same ache I feel seeing a butterfly held under glass.
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The Temple of Air
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