For the thirtieth time, they pulled the book from its place on the shelf. He blew a year’s worth of dust from the cover before smiling at her and leading her to the sofa. They sank into the tired cushions, wiggling closer to each other as together they pried the cover open.
“Zero,” she said, as she always did. They stared up at themselves from the page, he in black, she in white. Smiles from the past reflected in the present. He turned the page and said, “One.”
More reflections. The backdrop of the church was replaced with a country scene, a river cutting through the greenery. This time she wore a pink blouse, he a blue shirt. Her hair was shorter. They clasped hands, both then and now, displaying the bands around their fingers. The ones in the photo were shockingly pristine compared with their tarnished, modern counterparts.
“Two.” So they continued. Page after page chronicled the transformation of present into memory. The faces smiling up at them, though perfect facsimiles from the start, somehow became truer, more familiar—and yet less at the same time. On “eighteen”, he thought for sure his head didn’t sport quite that much gray.
When they finally reached “twenty-nine”, he took a polaroid camera from the coffee table. There’d be no romantic background this year. Their health wasn’t what it used to be, and they both felt it was time for a quiet celebration at home. They huddled together, she resting her head on his shoulder as he held the camera out and snapped the photo.
When it was done, they both grasped the corner of the page. “Thirty,” she breathed. They turned the page.
He stared at it, blinking. She leaned forward for a closer look, the sofa creaking beneath her, before asking, “Did you put it there?”
In the center of the page, in the sleeve that should have been waiting emptily for memory number thirty, was another photo.
He shook his head in answer to her.
“I don’t even remember taking this,” she said. “Who do you suppose that is?”
It was a picture of some rural road. Dirt crept up through the cracked remnants of pavement. Trees crowded against one side while an overgrown field spread out from the other. On the far right of the photo, barely in frame so it seemed to have slipped in by mistake, was a running figure. A dirty sheet draped and wound over the person, completely hiding his face, tangling with his arms and legs.