There’s no reason I should have this photo or the other four that were obviously taken the same day. I didn’t shoot them; I wasn’t there. That I do have them means I badgered someone into giving them to me: either Tim, who’s front and center in the water, or Riley, the boy closest to him, next level up. I’d be willing to bet it was Riley who reluctantly handed them over.
Even though I wasn’t friends with the other three boys in the photos (one of whom isn’t pictured here because he was obviously manning the camera), and though I haven’t seen them in more years than I wish to divulge, I can name them all immediately. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen them in all those years; they are fixed in time, always young, always long-haired, bell-bottomed, wearing illegal expressions on their achingly young faces.
I also don’t know where in North Alabama these photos were taken. I hope there are still as many remote places of natural beauty as there were then, where even a short hike would take you far from whatever troubled your spirit.
And when you’re a teenager, something is always troubling your spirit. It’s your job. You’re new on the planet, and it’s not perfect, and neither are the people trying to teach you how to be here. Everybody’s got advice and wisdom, and what they’ve forgotten is that no one older and with more experience could keep their lives perfectly on course, either, when they were young. They–we–you–everybody has to stumble over their own rocky terrain, take their own falls into cold, rushing water, get up, keep going.
It’s because of Tim and Riley, and everything we learned together and taught each other, and all the ways we betrayed each other and found our ways back those first decades of our lives, that I so easily slip into the world Stephenie Meyer created. I don’t care about the writing flaws. I can strip away the supernatural elements. What I see is three teenagers who are dealing with emotions and choices, desires and missteps, confusion and clarity, with fresh minds and untried hearts.
And this photo… One boy long out of touch; the other one dead. But here forever, in this blurry photo, are the boys who gave me music, art, poetry, laughter and tears, and my first lessons in the crazy beauty of romantic love.
Here forever in my heart, too.