The Stranger in the Photo is Me
I'm thinking about what time I’ll be swimming in the big pool at my daycare today. I'm planning how Ariana and I will get out of naptime. I'm wondering how high I can pump on the swings, and how I’ll challenge Ariana to that later. I'm smiling for the camera with a gap where a tooth should be and posing with my best friend, my little hand wrapped around her shoulder. My days are endless and my cares are absent.
Fast-forward eleven years. Flip through a thousand more pictures of me until you reach this moment. Right now my mind isn’t concerned with playing mermaids in the swimming pool or contests on the swing-set. I’m focusing on writing this paper at my messy desk, with my favorite music playing in the background. I stare at the photo, trying to remember who I was in that moment. I wonder if she even is me. Her hair chopped short and her bangs uneven, her shirt all bunched up and not matching with her jeans (this girl today would never commit such a fashion crime). I question this until I recognize the girl who seems attached at my hip, her face more familiar than my own.
We were best friends since before we could talk. I saw much of myself inside Ariana, too. Growing up with her, I could see how I was changing through how she matured also. Whatever I went through, so did she, and vice versa. This all made my experiences as a child seem more concrete, knowing that I was not alone. We faced many time-outs because of our antics, together. We passed through the “boys have cooties” stage to developing our first crushes, together. We helped each other get through our family problems and we always knew we had a shoulder to cry on. Together, we had countless fights and phases where we wouldn’t talk. But we often take for granted the one who we know will always be there for us.
At the time of this photo, we could never imagine the future. We were still innocent children, going home after a day of messing around. In the years to...