photo booth love

August 1, 2012 | 158 Comments

july 1998, calgary, ab

july 1998, calgary, ab

My hair was in a messy twist with orphan wisps falling around my face. I wore jean overalls with a grey, short-sleeved, v-neck. Overalls were the thing that summer. I was adorable. Oversized, the overalls made me feel petite and feminine. You can’t see my feet, but I wore brown, fake Birkenstocks, my summer-tanned toes peeking out.

I took Steve to the bus depot because it was one of two places in Calgary I knew had a photo booth. I loved photo booths. I would drag friends into each one we passed, both or all of us digging in our pockets for change. We’d stand outside the booth, securing our turn, planning the four poses. There was usually some variation of, “1. Silly face. 2. Cute. 3. Kisses. 4. Surprised.” I can’t remember what Steve and I came up with that night at the bus depot, but I would guess something like: “1. Sad 2. Cross-eyed 3. Serious 4. Silly.”

The evening still held some of the heat from the day. The warm air pushed my hair back as we bounced through the parking lot and down the stairs to the lobby. There were maybe ten people waiting for their person or bus to arrive. The carefree clomping of our shoes echoed, interrupting the empty quiet. We giggled through each pose, electricity prancing between us as we squished our two bums onto the lone stool. Our relationship was days old–our togetherness still so full of charge–the first time a photo booth captured our pursuit of impetuous adventure.

I danced a jig, antsy for the booth to spit out our developed, still-damp photos. I had often been told my face was Gumby-like, able to bend and stretch like a gymnast into exaggerated expressions. This must have been the first time that truth was captured for my own eyes. My face, particularly in the cross-eyed frame, struck me impossibly cartoon-like.

The surprise sent my hysterical laughter echoing through the bus depot as our footsteps had earlier. Steve laughed, too, but as my giggles became louder and tears wet my cheeks, his laughter shifted from the pictures to my delirium. We lost our ability to stand, buckling at the waist and knees, struggling to breathe. I was aware we caused a scene, recipients of curious, disapproving, and amused looks. Too lost to a world of delight, I responded with more laughter, more tears and gasping.

It was months before the pictures stopped washing me in giggles. Familiarity dims the intense reactions that come with the newness of a thing. Like the pictures, our togetherness has shifted into the familiar. My hair does not rise to his skin brushing mine. My pulse does not quicken when we embrace. I do not feel desperate in his absence.

Some days I long for those early moments packed with sparkle and wonder. Other days I am thankful for the ways time has unfolded our individual stories, weaving them together to make something bigger. I am known because of time. I am loved because of time. I am healing because of time.

My response to the pictures will never be the same as that first night, but they continue to delight me, holding still a memory saturated in joy.

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