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December 10th, 2016

You, 1999

March 5, 1990 – December 10, 2014

The day before I met you, I was screaming and crying in my phone on a tarmac in the rain in West Virginia. The fight attendant was pleading with me to get on the small plane from the door, “Sir, we need to leave! You must board!” I ignored her and kept pleading into my phone against hope I knew would not work but I didn’t know how to not try. I looked at all the faces in the windows of the small plane, they were all angry and annoyed, but I could tell they also understood as they heard all the words I was screaming that I can no longer recall. I turned away from the door of the plane just as I got to it, my last pleas must be said one more time but I had to make this flight, there was no choice there. Finally, when I felt the attendants hand on my shoulder and a soft, “Sir, the pilot asks you to please board.” I closed the phone without a goodbye, turned around, stepped into the tiny plane, took my seat, looked at the faces staring back at me and I fell asleep for the first time in days.

We met really early in the morning while it was still dark outside. Your mother was getting you and your brother ready for school while your father introduced himself and left for work. I was your shadow all day long, no one questioned why, no one looked at me oddly, I was welcome to be your shadow – all day. Sitting in the middle of the small gymnasium next to you, across from you at lunch and by your side while the woman held up large oversize crayons and asked you to identify the colors. I watched you struggle and I watched you in victory. It was a personal joy the way you’d look towards the light that came from my hand each time I pressed that button on my forever machine. The machine in one hand, my light in the other, confused and seem to fascinate you just as I was fascinated watching in return. This was our game. On our drive home from your school through that Indiana dusk and rain I made my last few frames of you on my new, but old, favorite machine. When we arrived back at your home your father helped me set up for the family portrait and when no one else was watching he told me things I would never forget about you I would bet he never told anyone. I didn’t tell him that shortly before this moment, in a moment to ourselves, your mother asked me things about you she could never know… And I told her what I saw.

Later that night after having met you, alone in a hotel room arranging all the film from all the machines to be sent directly where it needed to go as fast technology then allowed I tried to not touch my phone. Make no more desperate pleas, make no calls to anyone that hadn’t called me and wonder who would ever ask or say the beautiful things about me that your parents had asked about you. I was sitting on the floor of the motel room between the two beds and under the sole lamp that worked. All my film was arranged in neat little rows and I counted them out. There was a roll still in my favorite machine, the machine from the car ride at dusk. I grabbed the machine, flipped it over and took off its baseplate… And then I screamed. I hadn’t wound the film back in the canister. 1000’s of rolls and muscle memory and I had never done this before. Instinct took back over and I got the baseplate back on as fast as I could and started crying again just like I had at the airport in West Virginia a little more than 24 hours ago. I rewound the film, removed it, marked it and sent it along to the client in the morning without sleeping all night. I would not know the fate of or see this film for months. When it was returned I ripped open the package and found this frame, light streaked but just as beautiful as I remembered. I printed it really large and staple gunned it to my wall. This is what meeting you meant to me.

I Saw You Everyday For 13 Years