There you are, standing atop the Natural Bridge at Red River Gorge, Kentucky hugging a pine tree, pretending to be afraid to let go. But you aren’t pretending. You’re afraid of heights. It is mid-September, 1984. This picture was taken on our first vacation.
Forty-eight years old — so ruggedly handsome you were in your 36/30 red tag Levis and your navy-red-and-cream plaid flannel shirt.
How dark your hair was back then. And your moustache.
Ah, that moustache. You weren’t the only cop in the department to grow one in the mid-1980s. Lots of guys did. Assistant chiefs down to the newest recruits. But yours was the only walrus. You grew it before we met and it is on every picture through 1991. I remember the day you shaved it. I came home from work one afternoon, walked into the house; you looked up from your book, smiled, and it was gone.
Wow. I had fallen in love with the you of the moustache. You never said, “I think I’ll shave my moustache.” You just picked up the razor… and shaved.
But that was so us, wasn’t it?
Newly married at 38 and 48 — it wasn’t easy. We fought and fought, mostly on the weekends. We fought about everything: the toilet seat, your hearing aids, how I ought to squeeze the toothpaste.
Another photo, same vacation. There I am holding up Gray’s arch. Red tee shirt, blue jean cut-offs, split up the side. Flashing a smile, tossing my Farrah Fawcett layered do, the one you said was too young for me.
Last two photos — same vacation. We took these standing at opposite ends of the Nada Tunnel. You zoomed in, I zoomed out.
I have been digging through these photos ever since the funeral; magnifying glass in hand, looking for little details that weren’t important back then: the license plate number of our RV; the year and make of your Ford; the number of our campground site at Red River Gorge.
There are those who say this searching might not be the best thing for me.
“What’s done is done,” they say.
Still, how I long to reach inside these photos, grab your hand and pull myself back to when we were first married. When we would hold each other close. When you would scratch my back while I scratched yours. When we would lie there on the couch lost in Deuter’s inner-space music. Every once in a while you would kiss me or I would kiss you.
After a while you would whisper to me that no one ever said marriage would be easy and that we would work it all out.
One day at a time, you would promise.
Have faith, you would say.
Karen R. Arbogast is a flash fiction writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is presently working on a flash-fictionalized memoir in chapbook form about her life in the 1950s and beyond.