Photographs This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I do not own photo albums but instead shoeboxes
Brimming with glossy snapshots, clumped together in sharp-edged stacks,
Never in a particular order. Simply thrown together
A collage of memories and smiling faces filled with crooked teeth.

I find myself staring at a picture of the three of us.
A trio of 11-year-olds standing in the midst of a dreary green and gray wash,
The glass of the camera lens speckled with fat, sparkling raindrops.
In this frozen moment,
My two best friends are splashing through a tiny stream,
Their peeling, gray sneakers submerged in the water;
I stand beside them on the dry land, the cuffs of my khaki pants
Drenched and dripping a muddy brown.
Kayla has her mouth open, mid-sentence,
Her entire frame underscored by a poncho the color of a stop sign,
The only primary color in the drab photograph.
Callie is beside her, her body swallowed inside a shiny, white raincoat,
Her face peeking out from inside the hood like a rabbit emerging from a hole.
I am standing to the right, wrapped like a lumpy caterpillar in a forest-green coat
My hair falling in wavy, snake-like strands into my eyes.

This photo was taken somewhere in Phoenix
When we decided to go camping for Callie’s birthday.
Despite the misty October rain that clawed its sticky fingers across our skin
Despite the stream trickling along the path through the woods,
We clenched our jaws and took a hike.
Kayla and Callie splashed thorough the stream, kicking at the foamy water
Shouting and bellowing like trumpets; I dragged my feet alongside them
Whining in the tone of a sleep-deprived toddler about the water sprinkling from the sky
Suffocating my skin like spider webs, thickening the air,
Making it hard to breathe.

To my surprise, our faces in this photograph do not reflect the steely gray sky
Or the bleak, mud-encrusted pathway along which we hiked
We are all beaming grins that make our eyes squint and glitter like beads in our full faces
Our faces spotlighted in the glow of our smiles.
We are nothing more than three dangerously carefree pre-teens
Ignoring the snap of the camera and cherishing the laughter instead.

I love this photo, and not because of the memories it brings:
Eating Toostie Rolls while sprawled across wool sleeping bags
Crowded in front of the fire, savoring sugary s’mores ...
I love this photo because it reflects a time when we could (and would)
Look this messy and uncomfortable yet be so blissfully free of inhibitions.

It did not matter that our pants were rolled up at the ankles or that we were
Dressed in so many layers our bodies looked like bulging potato sacks
We were just three
Sixth-grade girls.

I scotch-taped this photo to my math binder
And on seeing it, Kayla crinkled her nose
Until her face seemed like a leather bag, only made of creases.
She slapped her hand over our beaming, frozen faces and insisted angrily
That I not show that to anyone, please, for the sake of her self-dignity!
And she turned her face.
Shunning the girl she’d been only a few years before.

What an unfortunate handicap:
The inability to recognize beauty.
She did not see how astonishing it was for us,
Three awkward girls in middle school,
To be standing in the rain in the middle of the woods
Beneath a darkened sky,
Smiling smiles that had not been painted on with make-up brushes
And tubes of lipstick ...
We are so perfectly free of the necessity to be
Flawless.
Free of self-consciousness and free of the barriers
That silence us today.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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