We stood in the large hallway at the depot, both of us carrying a piece of luggage. I wore a backpack. Dawn had a strap hanging over her shoulder with a bag bulging at her thigh. The bag squeaks every time she takes a step, and it reminds me of a hinge pleading for oil or grease or to be thrown to the ground.
The room looked like the check-in at an airport. There was a line which snaked from the “enter” sign and ended with a dozen agents dressed in short sleeve white shirts. Some of them wore ties or silk scarves, but most of them had their collars open as if they were welcoming the long lines of passengers and all the heat from outdoor Barcelona. They wore pleasure on their faces, and I wondered whether they kept those smiles all day or if they painted them on their lips right before coming to their posts.
While we waited, we wondered to each other about the sanity of our fellow cruisers, particularly the ones who brought their children. There was a family with a daughter. There was a family with several daughters. There were kids who were already making noises no one but their parents could appreciate or interpret. Me and Dawn communicated in our party language, the way we talk to each other without words so that people can’t understand our gestures. I’m not going to give them away, but I will tell you that there was a fair amount of glancing and nodding and shaking of the heads. We saw a couple with a child in a stroller, and I’m sure it made Dawn think about the boy back home. Me, well, I thought about all it took to get that kid in that line, all that money that those parents were willing to pay for a kid who couldn’t stand up in a long line with its own bags and who could only complain and who probably couldn’t say a full sentence yet.
At the counter they took my credit card, made me sign things, and told us we were welcome to board. We turned toward the exit, still smiling; we made it. My brother Mark being a great driver to get us to Terminal 5. Leaving the boy with his Grannie and finding out, by the time we got to O’hare, that she had already altered his daily routine. Stretching and walking up and down the length of a plane. All those hours and in-flight movies. Watching Dawn fall asleep in green chair in Amsterdam while we sagged through that first layover. Words in Spanish that we both read with about 40% accuracy. We made it. Listless, limp, and faltering. Passports and sail-n-sign cards in hand.
Outside the room with the white-shirted attendants, there was another short line of people. The Carnival photographers were snapping pictures. Dawn shook her head. No pictures, she said. I asked her, You don’t want to take a picture of this moment? She didn’t.
This is a security photo, the nice man said.
They snapped our heads so they could prove we were who we were when we exited and re-entered the ship at the ports of call.
Then there was the embarkation photo, the one Dawn refused to take. She took my arm, pulled her sunglasses down, and we walked by. There was an orange background with yellow and red columns consuming a ten foot high spot. I presumed it was evocative of Spain. We walked by the photographer without posing, seeing the flash from the two umbrellas and muttering about those who were stopping. They looked terrible but they didn’t care. They were happy. They were in Barcelona. We were happy, too, but we had dignity. At least the wife did. She knew that taking pictures after flying and waiting and removing shoes and being spoken to in languages we didn’t understand and eating something in Amsterdam that hardly passed for Thai at a horribly early hour because I was starving was not wise.
But I wanted to take that first photo because I’m learning how to take pictures. I’m learning to take them that is.
Early on in our relationship I had a thing about not taking pictures. I didn’t care to. I still don’t care to, but a couple years ago I made an inside promise to take more pictures. It was something Pam Sheppard said to me, something I can’t remember. It was probably something about the need to take them, the wisdom in keeping snapshots or something. Pam is a brilliant and caring person. She’s a clinician so she had to be. As I said, whatever she said left me with the increasing impression that I should take pictures.
She probably said that one day I was going to die and when it came time for my funeral my family would have to choose that picture from seventh-grade when I wore my favorite white sweatshirt. I was wearing Bugle Boy jeans, though you can’t see them because the shot’s a headshot. That picture looks no different from my wedding picture because when we got married I looked like the same seventh-grader except that I was in a white jacket and not a white sweatshirt.
Even though Pam told me that I should take pictures, and even though I told her I would, and even though I do, in fact, take more pictures, I didn’t push the issue with Dawn about that first cruise shot. After all, you have to choose which pictures to take when you’re married. You have to choose which decisions you’ll make and resist unmaking. You have to choose which moments you’ll capture and hold to tightly and which ones you’ll let fall into a body of water so large that you’ll never see the same wave again the way you first saw it.
Me and Dawn brought up the topic of pictures while we snapped our own shots of random strangers on the streets in Palma de Mallorca or when we took pictures of dead people in the Vatican. I told her I was getting into collages this year, that I was going to unearth those pictures from all those envelopes in that drawer next to the glider at home. I told her I was going to find a few ways to keep the places we’ve been and the things we’ve done before us. I think I’m getting old or sentimental or soft or, maybe, smart. Because it’s easy to forget where you’ve been with a person you go everywhere with, isn’t it? No, me and the wife don’t go everywhere, but we go places together. We share life, and we, like everybody, forget about the small, mostly ugly moments, like the ones when we’re sweaty and tired and grouchy and lagged by planes and everything else. Remembering, taking pictures–mental or otherwise–might be the only way to prove it.