When I went to the opera it was snowing outside. The translucent flecks gathered on the windowsills like shattered diamonds. The woman on stage was cloaked in fabrics that draped over her hips like a heavy curtain. The notes in her voice caressed my skin making the vast room seem warm. I wanted to keep this moment, place it in a small vile and use it as a tonic for the hearts inner malady. 

As a child I would collect anecdotes such as this. Some of these moments were happy and others melancholic. I was sentimental to a detriment and mostly interested in trivial details; holding my father’s hand while crossing the road, holding a piece of ice in the palm of my hand during a hailstorm, handing my mother tissues the day my parents separated. Growing up without any siblings my age meant that I spent a lot of time inside the refuge of my own imagination. 

I made it my mission to collect and imprison memories, to bury them inside of me. Sometimes I sift through them like old photographs, revisiting each one with all of my senses. The timber of a voice, repeated gestures, other small idiosyncrasies that past intimacies have left behind. I wear these instants on my skin like perfume, their aroma does not escape me. 

It was this practice of poaching memories like ivory tusks that served my writing life. It also served my love life. Sometimes I would lick my wounds with the memory of someone’s touch. I am guilty of using such nuances as a sword too. This practice of remembering made it impossible to forget.  

The memory obscures reality. It has a way of blurring the lines between what is actual and what is imagined. We are unreliable narrators by nature. We are illusionists, creating illusions for ourselves by our own slight-of-hand. There can be no definition between what is real and what is unreal, because in our memories, we do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.

Photography & Words Shannon May Powell