It had finally snowed where she lived. A little late for a white Christmas, but there hadn’t been snow since she could remember. Her mom had promised they would take pictures to commemorate the holidays as soon as she got back from visiting her grandparents. Assumedly a poor imitation of Christmas cards seen on television and in movies, of which her family never had once sent.
The girl did not look all that good in pictures, at least not in her mind anyway. When she was younger, of course, always happy to pose for photos and have her parents fawn over an outfit, unaware of how she might look, or if other people were watching.
As she grew older, the world supplied her with a massive mound of insecurities, a flame that grew into a fire, a fire that obliterated her self-esteem and kept on raging. Fed by every criticism, taunt, and rude comment, until it burned to an unextinguishable size. Not a single part of her person left unscorched. Photos at her age lost their thrill unless meticulously crafted or planned out. When looking back at them, she seemed almost bilateral. A happy, smiling, confident person, until forty-eight hours later, when the euphoria of feeling pretty had worn off, and she wished she’d never taken them in the first place.
However, despite her distaste for photography, she kept eight pristine photos in a little box on the top shelf of her closet. They were all strung together on an inexpensive piece of brown string, secured by eight mini close pins, bought from a long-forgotten craft store. These squares of color depicted the highlights of her life, each picture strung from the photo dated the earliest, (on the far left), to the most recent, on the far-right end.
The first picture in the box showcased her and her family at her first-ever theme park visit, at the ripe age of three. The backside of the photo contained her mother’s beautiful cursive handwriting, dissecting the day, and of course, dating the picture, indicating it used to be in one of her mother’s many scrapbooks.
“The ball drops in ten minutes! Be sure to find your way to the living room before then.” her dad called. Ah yes, the pressing matter at hand. In a little less than a quarter of an hour, they would be in a whole new year.
Despite her best efforts, insecurities seeped through the cracks, and the longer the girl stared at the photos, the more bitter she became. Visually stunning as they were, the majority depicted objects and places.
She aspired for a big moment solely centered around her.
For years she had sought this measly piece of string out, seeking comfort and the motivation that one day she’d experience something good enough to add on to it.
Her mom had expressed with candor one day that they were no different than the regular photographs the average person kept on their phone. The comment stung at the time, but then again, her mom was older, wiser, and the images weren’t doing anything her memory could not. The girl was starting to think her mom was right. She didn’t need the pictures around anyway. It was probably childish.
“Would you like apple cider?!” her dad screamed from the kitchen.
“Yes, please!” she replied with equal volume, as to be heard over the many walls and closed doors.
She wanted to get rid of them.
She could burn them in the fire. Extra kindling. Overdramatic? Possibly, but something she had prioritized for so long deserved a proper send-off.
“They’re starting the countdown! Hurry up and come get your drink!”
The girl flew down the stairs, her line of pictures trailing behind her as she went. Subsequently arriving at the counter, she snatched her drink and joined her father on the couch, positioned in front of their widescreen TV.
The fire was crackling in the fireplace, not too far off to her right. She could easily dump the photos in and forget about them. People did it all the time, with ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, friends, and even family. How did people do it? Just let so many memories go in a heartbeat?
“10...9...8…”. The girl never really was a fan of countdowns. The promise of something big; it was much better to get things over with anyway.
At that moment, the girl made her move, sure in the fact that the television still entranced her father. They were just photographs, the girl reminded herself. But hell, she would miss looking at the botanical gardens she visited a couple of years ago, and the photo of her new house the first time she ever moved. Just as the first flame licked the film-
“That’s your photo collection, right?”
“What?” the girl answered quickly, jerking the photos away in surprise.
“5...4…” the TV chanted.
“For when mom comes home, I presume? I think she’ll appreciate the fact you want to add our first ever Christmas photo to that collection of yours. She’s on her way here from the airport as we speak. She texted me.”
“Oh, yeah, of course.” There was no way she could burn them now.
“3…” The girl turned, alarmed as a picture of her and a former friend at a beach went up in flames. She quickly separated the image from the rest, watching as it burned to a crisp. Her father sent her glare and gave a quick lecture on fire safety.
“2…”. After making sure the fire was indeed out, the girl’s father raised his glass, and she mirrored his action.
“Happy New Year!”
“Happy New Year!” Their bottles clinked in a loud cheer. The faint sound of the door unlocking was barely audible over the speakers. The photos lay silently on the table as the girl went to greet her mother. She didn’t think she would get rid of them just yet.
Writer's Statement: Originally something I attempted to turn into a short film via Imovie, my storyline for Lifeline was inspired by my experience with photos, social media, depression, and anxiety. My writing process was a very personal one, as this is certainly my piece with the most self-projection.