I keep it by my papers and

study it nearly every day. The me

I used to be. When I look at your picture I

can feel how it felt to have

your arm around me, the

warmth of your closeness, the

smell of your cologne. I

can remember your rough

cheek, the way you worried

if I got too close, too dependent,

and the way I tortured you

without mercy because

of it. Now, finally,

I can savor the memory without the pain.

Now, finally, the memory

is worth something. The photograph,

hidden for so long, has value.

The storefront that no longer exists.

Our shopping bags with unknown

purchases, mystery things I’ve spent hours

trying to dredge up from

memory, trying to

remember the day, the hour,

the third person who

wielded the camera, what

we said, what I was

thinking. Did I have a

clue how precious that

moment was? How short

our time would be?

How we loved to shop! How

silly we were. I am silly

no longer, I am sober and

alone. Days go by without

conversation. You and I

have matching bags –

same store, same size. Mine

is all wadded up and yours

is neatly intact, with a precise

crease where the top folds

over. How did you keep it

so crisp? My bag and

purse are flung carelessly to

one side. My hair is stringy

and my shirt bulges out at

odd places because it was

too much bother to keep

tucking it in. How thin I was!

How thin you were! Our diets

were working that day! Or were

you already sick? You

are neatly trimmed, in

total control. There is

jewelry in the window

behind us, and a Vogue magazine cover.

We are both

smiling. It’s obviously a

picture of us before you

got Aids.

by Cher Bibler