by Royee Zvi Atedgi
I remember the old things, too. When you were without tattoo above your belly. Belly that I loved, for you had been through some real beauty and some real pain. Mussels, wine by the liter, octopus. I have a picture of you swiping your hand across your face. I have a picture where your eyes are closed and you’re kissing your fingers because they smelled of garlic and olive oil and cracked pepper. Then there’s the one where the flash went off. You: wide-eyed, about to tell me to “put the fucking camera away”. Your black dress. And before that, some weeks prior, the koi pond and the gardens. The fish suckling at your fingers, the sun on the water like tens of thousands of cameras going off. We, just kids really. Learning how to get along.
I have this picture and that picture. One is of you by an aspen tree. You, rubbing your palms together with white powder from touching it. The guide said it was natural sunscreen. Then we ran down the mountain. We scared everybody. They didn’t even exist. Me and you in Eden. Then it was lamb belly, halibut ceviche, tartare, 63-degree egg. Assaulting the palate and changing it, too. There’s one of you, nude, in the hotel room, about to light a totally-legal joint. One of us as trespassers, another as lovers, another and another and another.
I remember the old things, too. When you still had wisdom teeth but suffered an everyday numbness as if you’d just had them removed. Mucking stalls, tee-ball practice, wrangling over bed-space. One of my favorite memories is the look on your face when you opened up a stack of original Millays from me on Christmas. The immediate tears of having been understood. I replay it. As a VHS kid, I’d never tape over it.
You remember the old things, too. When you weren’t worth me and I wasn’t worth you. Me, a man sans scruples. Your hair, just long enough to pull. The backyard steps. Bad food. Mac and cheese. Hershey’s chocolate bars. Poor in health. Brimming with doubt. You have no pictures from this time. Neither do I. It seems I had to love you to document you.