They sat on the steps of the old capitol building and smiled at the camera. His right arm was reaching over her left leg, and both of her arms were wrapped tightly around his right arm. The flash clicked and a picture fed through the bulky, brown camera.
“Mama, who’s this?” she asked her mother, running her bare feet into the kitchen. They made a smacking sound against the floor. She ran the way she danced, and in her hands waved a tiny black polaroid.
Mama briskly wiped her wet hands on her skirt and turned to her daughter to examine what she had been waving. Upon the child’s eager handoff, Mama squinted at the polaroid and the child contained her buzzing anticipation by lifting herself up and down on the balls of her feet repeatedly. When Mama’s eyes focused in on the two smiling faces of the picture, she smiled too and her hand found its way thoughtlessly to her heart. It was warm and so was her face. Her lips came together in a smile that spread across her face – the kind that people try with little success to hide.
“The old capitol,” she said, quietly remembering. Her hand moved, again thoughtlessly, from her chest to her mouth. She cradled the bottom of her face in the crook of her hand, smiling from her eyes now that her mouth was being pressed against her fingers.
She examined the man’s face in the picture again, tracing her eyes over the shape of his body over and over and over. Her eyes sometimes wandered over to the woman, but only because their bodies were so entwined in the photo. Her eyes pulled back to him every time.
“What do you want in it?”
“As much of the building as you can get.”
“So not a close up of your faces?”
They looked at each other, and together shook their heads.
“Not too close or too far, if that’s okay.”
“Whatever you do will be perfect – thanks again for doing this!”
He grabbed her leg. She held his arm and held herself closer to him. They both smiled for the camera. They smiled for each other. They smiled for their future.
The child looked up at her expectantly. It was clear that the faces in the picture had been recognized. “Mama?” she asked, as a reminder of her patience.
Mama kneeled to her little girl and wrapped an arm around her small, child waist. She pulled her baby girl close to her so they could examine the picture together. The girl giggled because it tickled, and drummed her fingers on her Mama’s knee.
“This is a very special friend of mine from many years ago, before I met Daddy, before you were born. We met in the first college Mama went to, and then when I transferred, he went to visit me by surprise at my new school. That’s where we were in this picture.”
The little girl looked at the picture with her chin tucked into her neck and didn’t ask many questions. She seemed satisfied to know who he was. Mama, however, felt incomplete. The whole truth had not been told, and it seemed to be a lie to omit such a huge part of who he was to her. What’s more, she felt she was lying to him – somehow – in a way that maybe didn’t matter but did to her – wherever he was in the world – by not adding the most important part of the story.
“I loved him, honey,” she said. “Still do today.”
The little girl turned to examine her mother’s face. “You love him? Like you say ‘love you’ to Daddy?” she seemed ready to declare that something was not alright with this picture.
Mama shook her head. “No, honey, not like Daddy. It’s a different love, but it’s still love.” She kissed her daughter’s forehead and rubbed the side of her waist. The girl giggled again, and she was glad to see her daughter’s smile return. “Don’t worry, baby, there is a lot of room for love in people’s hearts, and I have love for both of them…in different ways…and for you, and Baloo, and Goldie, and everyone else.” She pecked her daughter’s shoulder with a kiss – then one, two, three more in a quick order. The girl laughed again, throwing her head back and trying to escape the kisses.
When they settled, they were still smiling but calm again. “Where is he now?” she asked her Mama.
A sharp pang in her mother’s stomach. Where was he. What was he doing. How was he. It hurt a lot, more than any of the words humans have to describe things that are painful.
“I don’t know baby…”she murmured, looking with a furrowed expression at the dark face in the picture. Her own reflection glimmered back at her in the shine of the photograph.
“I’m going to go find Baloo,” her daughter said out of nowhere, demonstrating that she was, indeed a child, and her attention for the topic had expired. She pulled away from her mother’s grasp and dance-ran out of the kitchen to find the family dog.
Alone in the kitchen now, Mama held the photo in both hands, close to her face. She was still kneeling on the floor. She didn’t have the energy in her heart to stand up just yet. Where was he. How was he. Her heart tightened. Soon she could not see his face anymore because she was staring at his image through a shimmering wall of tears. Everything that they had. Everything that they had been. The love she felt was different – that was sure – but it was eternal, and part of her felt she would be unsettled until they were together again. But of course that was stupid and would never happen. Stop it, stop it, stop it. She felt guilty, and then guilty for feeling guilty. She loved her husband dearly, with all of her heart. They were happy – they were the perfect she had always dreamed of. Yes, she was sure – all of her heart. Or…well how does that work then…? She shook her head quickly to clear the madness from her thoughts and pushed herself up to stand by the sink again. She shoved the revived vintage picture in her skirt pocket and promised herself to feel better, although suddenly every thought found its way back to him.
They exchanged the camera and the photo again. It developed in a few minutes.
She grabbed the photo from his hands and looked at it. She threw her head back and laughed.
“Why are you laughing? It’s cute!”
“I love it. It’s perfect.”
“So why are you laughing?”
“Because look at you! You’re so cool with your legs draped casually over the steps like that. What a cutie, what a cool guy.”
He looked at the picture again and smiled sheepishly.
“And then look at me, holding as tightly to you as I can, scrunched up in the physical form of ‘mmm I just love him so much!’” She scrunched her nose in a smile and mocked herself with a high-pitched voice.
Then they both laughed and they were holding each other again. It was true, he did look a lot cooler than her.
“I love it. I love you.”
They held each other under the night light of the old capitol.
They smiled for the picture. They smiled for each other. They smiled for their future.
I know you’ll never see this, so it’s safe for me to say that I miss you sometimes.
These days, more often than not, it’s more like I just really wonder how you’re doing. How life’s treating you and how you’re treating it. Have things gotten better for you? How is your family? How do you feel? Are you happy?
But I don’t stay with these thoughts for too long. Before, I couldn’t help it. But now I can. So I don’t.
I see almost every day the lasting effect you had on me. I’m not saying there weren’t good, beautiful moments in our time together, but they were always in between some big blow out, some big scandal, or some thoughtless action. And now I haven’t spoken to you in months or seen you in person in almost a year, but you’re still with me in little things. Little big things. Like how I look at myself in the mirror. My appearance, my weight, all of it.
Yesterday I was driving on the interstate when I had what was very similar to a heart attack. My heart beat was uncontrollable, my eyes felt like they were dilated, my ears felt tingly and my head felt airy, my hands were shaking pretty badly and my legs started to feel strange too. There was a moment that I definitely had the thought, “Should I be calling 911?” It was terrifying, and it lasted on and off for over an hour.
When I finally got to my destination, the woman I was going to see dropped everything to take care of me, to reassure me, to calm me down. We had a long conversation about what was happening, why it was happening, and it didn’t take long for me to start crying.
I’m going to jump to the point. My heart went crazy because of these pills I started taking. I started taking the pills for a number of reasons, but I bet you more than anything, you were somewhere down there at the root. You, your standards, the lies you thought it’d be okay to build my trust on, and the way I felt like I’d never be enough for you no matter how much you told me I would be.
And it’s not worth a heart attack. It’s not worth that fear.
So I still love you, a lot, because apparently I can’t help that, and there is a lot in you to love. Honestly. So I hope you’re doing well. I hope you’re living and learning and loving and growing like I have in the last 5 months, but I think I’m going to spend a little less time hoping that you’re okay and a little more time making sure that I am.
If we meet again in the future, maybe you’re right about this Kismet thing. But kismet or not, I’m going to love myself first. Nothing is going to get in the way of that.
I mean just look at those faces! (PS: shout out to my home state, I guess!)
Perfect INFJ contradiction:
INFJ’s can’t STAND it when people don’t communicate their feelings of anger, especially if it is directed at them.
If you are angry, tell me WHY and then we can go from there! Passive aggressive makes an INFJ’s skin crawl, and they’d rather be hurt by harsh, unplanned words (and deal with that temporary pain) rather than watch someone pout or pretend not to be mad when they clearly are. An INFJ pet peeve might be the good old passive aggressive pouty phrase: “I’m not mad!”
Remember, INFJ’s are acutely sensitive to the turmoil of other people — meaning that INFJ’s can both pick up on people’s unexpressed emotions as well as find their own mood altered by those emotions. This goes for a wide range of feelings, but especially negative ones. So, INFJ’s will want to resolve that anger that they sense in other people, especially if it directed at them, both to restore the peace in the relationship, and also to calm the inner alarms that are going off.
An INFJ will act according to each person who they are dealing with. If the person is stuck in denial of their anger and seems to somehow be enjoying dragging out the anger process, INFJ’s will try to spur gentle reminders of love and happiness, without being direct. They will do this until the person cracks a smile, which the INFJ totally catches, and the conflict reaches an unspoken resolution, free of anyone’s embarrassment. Phew, exhausting work, but the INFJ will wear themselves out to get it right. (If it goes too far though, the INFJ will essentially wipe their hands clean and let the person mope if they want to. INFJ ain’t about to grovel.)
If the INFJ knows that the person just wants to scream at them but personally needs some kind of trigger or permission in order to do so, the INFJ will purposefully trigger the other person. This may either happen in some planned way, or the INFJ will simply say something along the lines of, “Please just talk to me. I know I messed up, tell me how. I won’t be mad, I just want to listen.”
(It should be noted that this is the preferred way. However, it will be hard for the INFJ to embrace the criticism. They will keep their promise, though! They won’t get mad – at least not in a way visible to the outside world.) Which leads to the contradiction…
When INFJ’s get mad at someone, they might do that exact thing: go quiet, maybe a bit of sulking, definitely withdrawn.
(Note: if the person messed up just a little, they’ll get just a tiny little taste of the silent treatment. This serves 2 purposes. First, it gives just the tiniest clue that the INFJ’s feelings are hurt without the INFJ having to say anything. A simple apology should do the trick. Second, the INFJ actually does need a little bit of time to personally recover in order to get back out there and continue liking/loving the person. So if space is needed, give space. Hug later, aka after space. But if the person messed up big time, like with trust or something, omg good luck. INFJ is about to whoop your a**.)
They might even toss out the phrase that they hate so much to hear: “I’m not mad.” Partly, it’s to try to convince themselves, but it’s mostly because they need the other person to work their butt off to make amends. INFJ’s want a giant “I AM SO SORRY AND I STILL CARE” sign, but not a literal one. They want to feel that genuinely from the other person.
To fix this, the INFJ is going to need a lot of genuine apologizing and signs of deep care/love/affection. (I seriously emphasize both genuine and deep since the INFJ will call your b.s. instantly and you’ll be back to square one ASAP, or even negative one.)
Most of all, they will just need the constant assurance that you’ll never make that mistake again. Depending on how big the mistake was and/or how many times it has been made before, the INFJ may or may not take you back into their lives. But don’t worry, if the INFJ is still somehow communicating with you after a couple of days — passive aggressively or not — you are still completely and entirely in their “Keep” list. If the INFJ has stopped talking to you all together or has verbalized that they very seriously do not want to see you again, I’m really sorry, but you must have messed up in a major way. Best of luck, but most of all, never do it again.
I hope this is in some way validating/reassuring/explanatory to people out there.
As an INFJ myself, I know it’s something I wish more people would understand about me. MOST of all though, OVER EVERYTHING, we just want the love and cuddles and positive words of affirmation. We don’t like being mad! We don’t like it when other people are mad! We want everyone to be happy, which is probably more of a human thing than an INFJ thing. Haha okay, great plan then. Hugs all the way.