By B. E. Moore
This is a photo of me and Shelley at Niagara when we were still in high school. She had a little weight then, but she looked great, your typical long blonde hair and blue eyes and engineered teeth, but without the attitude. Hugging her was like snuggling under the covers on a February morning. We could sit together for hours, not talking, not doing anything. Best feeling of my life.
That trip to the Falls was the first time we made love. I drove down the Parkway to a lookout with no one around and we lay down on the grass by the river and started kissing. She wanted to, even more than me. It wasn’t anything dirty. It was actually quite beautiful. Afterward, she was on top of me and the sun was flashing in the trees, and I remember thinking how right and whole I felt. Her heart beat through my ribs, quick and steady.
I always knew I would be good at relationships because I am naturally affectionate. One time, I found a chipmunk in our backyard. Something had attacked it, and the gut was split open and bloody. The chipmunk never moved. It must have been terrified. I put on some gloves, in case it had a disease, and set it up on a tree branch where it would be safe. Later in the day it was gone and I suppose some animal got it, but that shows you the kind of person I am. I hate to see any living thing suffer. I have empathy.
Shelley’s parents were pissed. We didn’t get back from the Falls until midnight, and I think they knew and they didn’t approve of me. But after that, there was no stopping us. We dated all through school. We never fought. It was like falling in love with your best friend.
Here’s the wedding party. We have photos from several different angles. There are three albums, including my snaps and a few video stills. Although I have a gig backed up on the computer, nothing beats a glossy you can hold in your hands. Shelley teases me because I take pictures everywhere. For me, a photograph freezes a piece of your life so that you can always go back to it, no matter what else happens. No one can argue that things were different than they were. We were really, really happy. The evidence is right here.
Shelley slimmed down for the wedding. A lot of girls do that, and then when they have a man they stop caring, and after a couple of kids they look like somebody’s mom. Shelley wasn’t that way at all. She kept losing weight. She joined a gym and took special pills and protein shakes until she looked quite ripped, for a girl. Her face leaned right down. When she was younger she had soft, round cheeks that I would cup in my palms and kiss all over.
The house was her idea. Mortgaged us to the hilt. She wanted something big and stone, with a special dining room for entertaining and a deck for barbeques. Going from my mom’s little apartment to a two-story monster home was like stepping into a movie. I have to admit, it was worth the money.
You’ll notice that I opened the door for her. There’s a nice breeze off the lake. Maybe I should brush her hair, to make her feel better. It’s a little dry now, with age, but still nice to run my fingers through. All that moaning and groaning and fussing. Her blouse is ruined. But she’s going to be fine. The way she’s lying so still, listening to us, you would think she was waiting for me to leave.
Now, here’s you, Tucker, dancing with the maid of honor. In hindsight, it seems funny that I was the one who insisted you stand up with us, even if you are one of my closest buds. Shelley didn’t like you at all. She said you were weaselly and wouldn’t look good in pictures. All kinds of silly reasons. The only time we argued before the wedding was because of you.
Shelley always wanted something bigger. She wanted to travel, to go back to school, to improve herself. She said she wanted to stretch herself, and then she would laugh and push her arms over her head as far as they would go and lean back on her tip-toes. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
But you. Why would anyone want you?
Tucker. You don’t even have nice hair.
In case you are wondering, the .22 is my father’s. I couldn’t shoot well, and I didn’t enjoy hunting. That disgusted the old man. He made me polish the stock and oil the barrel until they shone. To me, it just seemed so pathetic. But I guess he’s got the last laugh now. The barrel tastes hot and greasy, like bacon right off the pan, and it smells bad.
I’m going to close the albums so that they don’t get messed. Tucker, when I leave, I would appreciate if you gave the pictures to Shelley’s parents as a keepsake. This is all too complicated for me to explain in a way they could understand, but I know you’ll do the right thing. We’re the only people in the world who know how special she is and was.
I can see you sweating and shaking but it’s totally unnecessary. You just have to know one thing and all the rest will make sense: that she was the One. She made me complete and gave everything meaning. Like they say, the sun rose and set on Shelley. There’s no part of her that isn’t part of me.