I Will Miss You When You Are Gone
“I take pictures,” says the child made of knives. They are scattered at his steel feet, and he steps on them, cutting them up. Pictures of people kissing. Talking. Having fun. Dying, and every second oblivious to it. “I capture moments.”
“Pictures steal souls,” I snarl.
My friend who cut herself collected butterflies. She would display them by piercing them with pins, sticking them to the back of a board, and framing them in glass.
My suicide-bomber friend collected religious pamphlets. He had an entire drawer filled with recruitment fliers for a Buddhist temple that had opened in the neighborhood.
My love collected people. She would tell stories about the exotic and fascinating people she had met from all over the world, who were all really the same.
I collected newspaper clippings about unsolved murders and domestic abuse and divorces. I want to save this world without love, but I’m no hero. All I do is exist, and with the knife-child here that may not even be something I do much longer.
The child tells me why I should give up: “It’s not stealing. They beg me to take. In the taking, I give them hope.”
“You take their souls and that gives them hope?”
“Yes! One final, desperate hope. They hope that someone will remember them. We all do.” His serrated toes slice the souls at his feet into confetti.
“They could keep their souls. They can be remembered without your pictures.”
Cold laughter echoes from between razor lips. “You’re like most people. Ignorant.”
“I’m exactly as different as everyone else.”
“You think the photograph is different than the memory, but they’re the same. The picture changes, too. It decays over time. It distorts. It warps. It’s artificial, a pose. Memory or silver, it makes no difference. These are moments, framed in time.”
“So you give them an end.”
“Right. They give me their souls to be remembered. It’s better that way. Living is complicated, messy…it moves, it’s big…”
“It’s terrifying. It’s like infinity. You never know where you stand, because there are no bounds.”
“So it’s like freedom.”
“Freedom?” An icy laugh. “No one enjoys freedom. They just think they do because they’re selfish. They just want to choose their chains. There’s no beginning or end in freedom. There’s no narrative structure.”