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Polaroid Seance


Polaroid Seance

Lana Muhammad

“Why your eyes well up?
Did you call me from a séance?
You are from my past life,
Hope you’re doing well”
-Frank Ocean, Nights

A candid shot of teenagers hanging out at a playground at night. One girl is in mid run with the hoodie of the person behind her whose reaching for it. A boy lays splayed out in the sand, one arm over his head and one knee propped up. There is one other person on the jungle gym at the far right. The Polaroid's frame isn’t wide enough to catch them totally, so the only thing that can be seen is their legs mid swing off the side.

      “She’s totally a little twat, you just look at her and you know that she’s a stuck up bitch. Her acting is trash, she’s not talented at ALL even though she thinks she is. God, I fucking hate Bella Thorne,” my friend Sedona rants, just like she does nearly every time we hang out. No one really knows why she has such a passionate dislike of the Disney actress Bella Thorne and we never know what to say in response. Most of the time we just let it pass into awkward silence then move on. This time Ash grabs Sedona’s hoodie out of her hand and runs past her to the soccer fields, turning her head back to stick her tongue out. Sedona rolls her eyes and hops down from the jungle gym, Naruto running after her. In the process she narrowly misses Ansel, who decided to say ‘fuck it’ and nap in the sand. It is quiet now, thank god. 

      I try submerging myself in this moment but more than anything I kind of just want to go home. When I hang out with my friends I ask myself at least three times in the process why I do. Don’t get me wrong, they are great people. Great people much in the way how most people are at the end of the day when you get to know them. The problem is that I don’t think I actually know who my friends are. We hang out at the same place, at the same time every weekend and we talk about the same things and agree with each other about said things- sometimes it’s ‘deep’ shit, sometimes it’s just memes. We say the right words at the right time and it’s all so quirky and perfectly timed. We have gotten really good at ignoring the silences that try to tell us we are miles apart from each other and deep down we all know that the second high school ends, we will split.

      You are not in the picture just yet, but very soon you will be. I will remember this exact
feeling on this jungle gym. Remember that I felt this just as much with you as I felt it with them
even though I pretended that I was making it up.  
Coming Into Focus:                                                                                                                       This one is in all black and white and it’s simple. Two shadows on the side walk coming from two people sitting on a bench. Both heads of the shadows are turned towards each other.

      It’s my sophomore year and Anime club is having an outing today. Sedona’s president of the club and I don’t really have to go, but I feel like I should so I do. That day is spent making painful conversation with people who are miraculously more socially awkward than I am. I listen to debates about Attack on Titan and Hetalia and watch them play games on animes that I haven’t seen yet. The Pokémon theme song has been on repeat for the last ten minutes and some girl next to me keeps meowing like a cat. Sedona nor any of my other friends are anywhere to be found and I’m wondering why the hell I came again when I see a long blue wig in the corner of my eye and someone sits next to me. Another painful conversation waiting to happen, I sigh and turn so that I can get it over with. I look at you and I have suddenly lost all my words. 

      You introduce yourself and smile at me, asking for my name. I tell you and then I give you the meaning behind it, the same way I hate how other people do that, but only because you say that my name is beautiful and how can someone as beautiful as you say that something of mines is beautiful and holy shit I really like that.  

      “I’ve noticed that you’re just sorta hanging around by yourself and being really quiet. How are you?” you ask, like you know me. Most of the time when someone asks ‘how are you’ there is a mutual understanding between both people that neither one really gives a shit. You do though, and it is different. I like this too.  

      “I’m fine. Can I tell you a secret though?” I cup my hand around my mouth and lean towards you. “I don’t really like anime, I came for the pizza.” 

      “Oh God, yes me too. I knew I chose the right person to sit next to.” And from there on we never stop talking. The party goes on without us and the sun sets but we barely notice. Sedona invites everyone back to her house and we find a room to continue. I speak to you about things that were always too big for me to speak out loud. You tell me every theory you have about life and the universe and I listen like my fucking life depends on it. This. You know me better in hours than people who have known me for two years. It is the most real that I have ever felt and at the time I think that I am just extremely happy to have met you. Love is another one of those things that is too big for me to voice now.  

The Staircase:  
A picture in sharp color. About half of a staircase is shown, starting from the base and going up from there and a ragged backpack with neon stars is strewn across it. Slumped right next to it is a neat olive colored backpack, half zipped with sheet music slipping out. One sheet has managed to escape and the camera has caught it mid fall.  

      I don’t really know how it happened, but somehow the steps in front of the school became ours. By ours I mean my entire group of friends, which includes you now, and some of the anime club kids. It’s like a talent show- we tell jokes, and Erica brings out her violin and you sing to it (you sing beautifully, you always have). Out of everyone on the steps, you and I are always the last ones left always as the sun is setting. By a double edged stroke of luck both our parents are naturally late people. These days on the stairs are repeats of that first meeting and I wring as much magic out of them as I possibly can. 

      Today it’s just us and we are having a conversation about Pluto being a planet.  

      “What the fuck, why can’t they ever leave Pluto alone? Pluto is just as much of a planet
as the others are- you can’t just change it up all of a sudden and kick it out. It deserves to be there too,” you say. 

      “Agreed. I feel like Pluto is ingrained into everyone’s mind as being a planet that for them to just one day be like: oh no jk guys. Like it leaves too big of a missing space- ask anyone and they’ll tell you Pluto never left,” I reply. We are sitting so close to each other I can see the specks in your eyes and they gorgeous in this lighting. Friends. We’re friends, of course friends notice these things about each other all the time.  

      “Don’t you think so?” you ask, pursing your lips. I have no idea what it is that you said, but I give you an ‘mmhm’ because I probably agreed with what you said. You say nothing else and you look back at me. In that moment I feel like how I do before I do something brave, like I’m bracing myself. I no longer care about Pluto or the sunset or the fact that we are still at school. All I care about is the mole by the top of your lip and I’m wondering if you kiss the same way you talk. Is this the part where I move closer, or you move closer, or do we just kind of let it happen? Is that even what comes next?  

      Instead of kissing me you look away, where your mom is slowly entering. It is time for you to leave and you say goodbye to me. From how we ended up, I know the ultimate answer to this question now. Still, I think it’s worth mentioning that I know you and I know that that day the question was in your eyes too. It was the only time that it ever was.   

In this picture a close up of a mouth, smiling. The teeth are crooked- one tooth chipped at the bottom and an over bite. The bottom of the jaw has a slight bump on it, a small abnormality that the person was born with. At the top of the lip, on the right side is a brown mole. 

      Believe it or not, your smile was actually my least favorite thing about you. Now I know what you’re thinking: wow, you pretentious asshole who do you think you are? I’ll tell you that I’m your friend despite it all and you hide behind your smile. Your sister once asked you a question you didn’t know the answer to (junior year for you, senior for me) and she called you a dumbass. She wasn’t joking either. You said nothing and smiled and said you were so sorry. You were angry as hell. One day I showed you a song by my favorite rapper you smiled at me and said it was ‘pretty good’. You and I both know that if you never heard that song again in your life, you would feel blessed. Have you heard it since? 

      It’s not that your smile isn’t lovely, I’m sure it is. I just don’t think that you have ever showed me what it really looks like.  

The Heart, An Autopsy:  
The lighting is soft and natural. A hand crushes a tomato over a sink, juices dripping along the side of the hand and into the sink. 

      It’s Christmas break and I have just seen you. These days we don’t talk as fast or as much as we used to- we have known each other too long and the silence is never too uncomfortable. This is the year I went off to college in some sleepy little mountain town that I think I hate. Both Tony and my uncle have died. I’ve ended my friendships with Sedona and all my other friends, except for you and Goob. I love you both so dearly, and I have gotten good at pretending that the love for both of you is the same. 

      This is also the year that you know what it is that you want to do, music. Your voice has always been good from the times that you have let me hear, but you never told me you play guitar. Tonight you let me really hear you while you play guitar and my heart hurts so much. For Tony, for past relationships, for how much I feel for you after all this time. You stopped playing and that question from the steps was screaming at me and I wanted so badly for you to ask it too. There was a pause, but this time was awkward and instead of anything happening you just smiled and put your guitar up. We watched a movie. The end for you. Not for me. 

      My mom comes and I ignore everyone in the car, instead listening to loser indie sad music.  

      “Damn, did someone break up with you over there. Are you crying?” my mom says half joking. I roll my eyes and fake laugh, turning my music up. My heart isn’t even broken, but the only thing that illiterate asshole can say is: you. you. you. 

      And just like that I really get it and I feel like the dumbest person on the planet. I tend to cut my hand on Occam’s Razor every time, but this time I cut my heart and it is so obvious. I’m in love with you. If Occam’s Razor says that the simplest things are the truest and if the truth sets you free then I am left with only one option. It’s time to tell you.  

      I am no longer sad, but I’m unbelievably hopeful because there is a chance. I forget just one tiny detail from the night (foolish, foolish).  
How the Cookie Crumbles:  
This is the only other black and white photo. A messy toddler staring at the camera, face covered in cookie crumbs and tears. One hand is holding a soggy cookie that is crumbling. 

      I’m that kid who sticks their hand on a hot stove and cries when they get burned. See I knew you did not feel the same, and I know now that just because you want something to happen with everything in you doesn’t mean that it will.  

      You say that this changes nothing about our friendship. You’re lying because you’re smiling and I hurt all over. Three months will pass and we will not have had a meaningful conversation. If we are to boil down the extent of what our conversations mean it is this:  

      “Hey,” I say.  

      What I really mean to say: “I still love you”

       “How are you?” you reply.  

       What you really mean to say: “I know, I’m sorry.”  

       I ask the same question, we both reply with “Good.” 

      We really mean it as a question, which is: “When will we be?”  

      Neither of us has an answer but we keep on trying, and talking and hanging out like nothing happened. It’s whatever. You have left a hole the size of missing Pluto in my heart. Whatever.  

Two Glasses:  
There are two women in the picture, sitting in chairs across from each other at a mahogany table. The picture shows their shoulders, down to their elbows and shows two glasses between them. The person on the right has her hand curled around the glass while the other is mid gesture. 

      It’s summer time and I am staying with my aunt. This has been the best summer of my life- my aunt and cousins have all spoiled me to death since they opened up their home to me. I didn’t have to get a job or clean or do anything and the thing is they refused to let me. We help each other out: they are grieving the loss of my uncle and I am trying to figure out who exactly I am and what it is that I actually want, and maybe I might still be heart broken. 

      Tonight it is just me and my older cousin, Naomi. We have sat at this table long since we finished our takeout and I decide to confide in her about you because let’s be honest I’m still not over it.  

      “And do you know why it is that you’re so hurt?” she asks me. It’s the kind of question you don’t answer because it’s probably rhetorical. I shrug my shoulders. “See your problem is this: you miss things that you never had. You think that your friend owed you everything that you gave in return. You loved them because of what it is that they could do for you, how they made you feel. How did your friend actually feel?”  

      “I guess- “ 

      “You guess wrong. They only wanted a friend and you kind of messed that up. Now I’m not saying you falling in love was your fault. Who the fuck falls in love on purpose? I’m saying that you cannot control what happened either way and the situation has left you. Cut your losses, clean the spilt milk and save your friendship”. 

       Occam’s Razor everyone.  

Two Hands:  
Two of the exact same type of hands hold each other. Maybe they belong to twins.  

      Things are okay between us for the first time in months. I went to your house last weekend and it was great. There no overly heavy talks or feelings and it was the most natural we have ever been. We danced in your kitchen to lame happy indie music and broke your mom’s favorite glass. We knew we were in trouble, but we laughed like it was the funniest shit in the world. Had anyone seen us they probably would have thought we were on coke.

      Somewhere between the end of last semester, the summer and now two things happened. The first is that I met myself for the first time. I won’t deny having loved you, how could I? But the thing about loving you is that there was always the fear right next to it. That should have never been there and I ignored it until I couldn’t, until it swallowed me whole. That fear was of being alone. I left off last semester with no friends; can you believe that you find yourself when you’re only left with yourself? I can and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.  

      Which leads me to the next thing: thank you. Thank you for sitting next to me that day at that stupid anime club outing. Thank you for talking to me for hours and sticking around for years after. Thank you for being honest about how you felt. I’m sorry that in the process of loving you I forgot how to be your friend. But in the words of Naomi, that’s all spilled milk right? 

This shot is in sharp color and shows a sun setting between mountains. It is bold and colored in pinks, and oranges and reds. 

Catch you later.