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Spring '24

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EITHNE SHEARER

 

You’ve been taking polaroids of me since we started dating. 

 

I always knew you liked photography, and would haunt your Instagram profile for proof that you were attractive for this characteristic alone, when I hadn’t realized yet that I found you attractive as a whole. I am always flighty about people who take photos, myself included—they capture everything so rawly, and I dislike being seen at all most days. 

 

This is especially explicit considering how I dress is so demanding of attention and so offensive to the generations above me. I am consequently goth—too blonde naturally to be goth—so in all these polaroids I have a slightly ghostly, death-becomes-her façade that turns up in the first couple you take. 

 

The one at the pumpkin patch is pretty neat, though. We drove out to this farmyard in the back corners of the country, tucked away at the top of a hill, and spent the evening stomping through mud and looking for the optimal autumn prize. You raised the camera to my face—chunky, 90's pivotal moment of a relationship only fresh five months ago—and snap, my teeth whitened in the exposure and the pumpkins leading off into the dark by my feet. You can only barely see my Halloween jumper or the obscene curls of blonde around my face. My eyeliner is stark, black bat wings around pupil-dilated cat eyes. 

 

You have always liked my eyes. Here, they look vicious with glee. 

 

You took more of me, but the camera started to play up. It was washing me out, turning my skin whiter than white, paper-thin, and all colours saturated to a blue, twilight-like sheen. You swore at every attempt—four in one day just to test the issue. I don’t personally mind them—I quite like looking like some refined Edwardian lady drifting in the landscaped gardens of her once-home. I sunk into the background of the country mansion we visited in the winter, where we bought old country biscuits and ate in the converted stableyard. It rained and rained and rained. You were annoyed (not angry) that the photographs weren’t doing the trip justice. I just think it’s funny, though—in 50 years time when the earth has gone to oblivion, they’ll be found in your memory box and some stupid teenager will be convinced I am a ghost. I find this oddly comforting. Ghosts truly outlive anything a gravestone could recommend. 

 

We went to our city’s Christmas market and you snapped more of the blurry lights and stalls. More in your bedroom, where I smiled for the camera, eyes closed and huge scarf looped round my neck. My lips were painted dark, eyes too, and looked like a painting left out in the sun too long. You never let me take any of you, but it’s because you are classically camera-shy for someone so eager to document everyone else. I want you in photos covered in lipstick stains, laughing and hiding your mouth; one of just your eyes and the scar scoring through your eyebrow, torn forever. I suppose this is the fate for all artists—we date each other and spend our time preserving the one who refuses preservation. 

 

We create a rudimentary stack for the memory box you have secluded in your wardrobe: a rewrapped cardboard box I gave you for Christmas now repurposed for an ever-growing collection of defunct memorabilia. It’s the curious nature of it that strikes me—what is a vintage store’s junk to one is our entire relationship to each other, to us. You have not let me see it in its entirety as of yet, purely out of more shyness. It is the most I have been visibly loved, difficult as I may be sometimes. My family doesn't take pictures of me anymore. Just at Christmas, when we’re piled in front of the tree in our finery, and the dodgy 2010 camera re-emerges from the drawer to take yet another forced photo that belies all truth of living here. 

 

The summer is coming, where I am at my most fearful. Vulnerability is hard in this season of nakedness, nudity, the free body. I have loathed all summers for their three months of torture, of never quite comfort—pulled flesh and strings cutting into the dents of my hips. I never survive this season unscathed, pressed in so much I feel like I’m losing any sense of my shape. Yet, you have taken your camera to me and made me something heavenly, stark and captured in a second in time; I demand to be understood in these photos. You cannot wipe the blurry halo from my face. That moment in your bedroom with my head turned away, hair a mess, embarrassed in my smudged lipstick as I tried to cover my blotchy, red smile. We’d had sex an hour before the photo, and the blush of being loved was still on me. 

 

The polaroids are too high contrast, ghostly contours—but they are spontaneous, a delicious memory that is too perfect to capture in any affirmed perfection. The wilting orange sunshine, golden hour haze for your camera now, will finally leave me at peace this season. 

 

The polaroids can keep you company, too when I’m gone, I suppose. Just for a while.

Eithne Shearer is a not-so-recent graduate and writer from Northern Ireland, with a burgeoning love of the colour red, her growing collection of shiny things, and the four black cats that continue to skulk around her neighbourhood. When not writing, she enjoys people-watching on her lunchbreak and listening to 80's goth music at ridiculous hours of the morning. Her work explores the messy, dark parts of human nature, and the equally soft parts, too. 

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