Click. Jacob could still hear the shutter from the Canon EOS D30 she gave him for their anniversary just moments before. He could hear her rampant laughter resonating across the narrow staircase enclosing them.
It was easy to make her laugh. Tease her a little, spurt out a few tacky jokes, and she was gone: a whirlwind of smiles, giggles, and delight. Her laugh was genuine; it came from her heart. From her soul. From her toes. It sprang from deep within her, bursting forth in a massive torrent of ecstasy. It stopped for nothing. To restrain it was unfathomable—the stillest silence stood no chance against its jubilant sound. Her laugh was lively, sweet, and filled with youth, giving pleasure to his ears and happiness to his heart.
Strong and pure and never quite enough, it was beautiful.
Jacob’s hands crept to his back pocket, pulling out the photograph he always carried with him. The photo was unevenly folded, causing the bottom left corner to become wounded from countless clashes of pocket and paper. Crumples raced across the surface like cracks on ice. A chocolate thumbprint wreaked havoc on the once pristine white. The fold itself was on the verge of tearing: a few desperate fibers clinging on for dear life.
Jacob itched to unfold the photo, but something stopped him.
He knew what he would see. He knew it all too well. Every smudge on the wall behind her, every line on her hand—hell, he could practically smell the aroma of coffee wafting off the paper.
Jacob missed her; there was no denying it.
He missed her silliness and her carefree attitude. He missed the way she would come tumbling apart like the happiest walls of Jericho that ever existed. Most of all, however, he missed the ridiculous way she would place her hands on her head, thinking she could pull herself back together. It was always too late.
What is a photograph? Is it only an image printed on paper? Or is it something more? Staring at the photo, Jacob pondered what he was holding in his hands. He just couldn’t believe that it was nothing more than a measly piece of paper. When Jacob opened the photo, he was once again on the stairwell leading up to their favorite coffee shop. Clanging cups and the murmur of friendly conversation filled the background with a comfortable buzz. Exotic fragrances of herbs and spices swirled through the air, beckoning him to climb the stairs.
The sounds, the smells—it was all too real.
A camera takes a moment and severs it from time. As the world moves forward, that moment is left behind to remain forever. Like a telescope that lets us peek at the universe as it was millions of years ago, a photo is a window to moments in the past. We are whisked away to relive those times again and again: seeing the same sights, hearing the same sounds, experiencing the same emotions as if we were there once more. But like how we can’t touch the stars, we can never touch those moments again.
It drove Jacob mad. What were mugs and coffee to him except noise and odor?
He didn’t want just a shadow of her smile and an echo of her laugh. He wanted her. The real her. He longed to touch her, to guide her hands from her head to his waist. To tuck her wild hair behind her ears like he always did. To pull her close to take in her warmth and sweet perfume.
Every cell in his body shrieked and trembled, wanting nothing more than to smash that window.
Taking a deep breath, Jacob took the unopened photograph and gingerly tucked their own little part of the universe back in his pocket.