How do you do? I ask.
The person on the other side of the table smiles and nods, and piece by piece, hands over fragments of memories. I lay them out like jigsaw pieces gently and carefully on the canvas in front. Slowly things emerge, and then people, and then events, and then emotions. And then, as always, time comes and bids us apart. I will take one last look at this piece, incomplete, in front of me, and carefully like an art collector place it into my memory vault.
I think of memories as frames. They are frames as in frames of reference, with the self acting as the singular point of view; they are also frames because they hold you and me, and him and her. Frames have beginnings, and they have discrete ends. Sometimes they are bright, and sometimes they draw deep into the night. Oftentimes they embody our happiness, and remind me the the value of each breathe I draw; other times they are seeped in sadness and streams of tears that would never dry. They stack cozily and nicely into a drawer that I open out from my heart, one that I often gently open, snugly close, and tightly guard.
As time goes by, the more relationships that we collect and cherish, the more the holes grow as we struggle to keep up. Every relationship thread consists of frames and frames of memories, and every frame consists of bits and pieces of memories. Every time we meet, we exchange these frames: What have I been up to these days, I hand one over. Oh that happened to me last year too, I receive one back. What? It’s been years already since then? we gasp at the holes that time has stretched in our memories.
Sometimes I’ll take one out and slowly reexamine it. I see the you in this picture, smiling with such cheeriness that warms my heart. You appear to be so lifelike, cheeks so rosy I could almost feel them; my fingertips reach out only to touch the haziness that is time. I withdraw my touch as if taken aback. The frame stops, and our memory ends. I scour through my drawer, eager to find more. Even with our infinite technological prowess, I could only steal glimpses of your life – your frames with you as the center point of reference, and others who will come, who will go. Smiles, laughters, tears and sadness; but never me. My frames with you never changes, getting buried deeper and deeper as time marches on mercilessly. Until one day it scatters in the wind like everything else.
I hold up an empty frame and peer into it. How do you do? I ask. But this time, it has neither me in it nor you.