it’s Friday night, July, and we’re in the backyard with visiting friends. a warm evening, for here, but settling into dampness as the sun slides off into deep blue.

he comes out with a sweater on, a plain grey knit crewneck, roomy and soft. mine.

one of the oldest items of clothing i still own, sleeves beginning to fray at the edges. it has a slit up the back where his father accidentally sliced it once: it was at the top of the box, the favoured one, last thing packed. we had just moved back to Canada, and Dave’s dad was eager to show off the sharpness of his Swiss Army knife.

no matter. it was a decade old, even then. it still keeps out most of the mosquitoes.

that sweater has been more places than most members of my family. i bought it by mail order when i lived north of the Arctic Circle, that first long black winter when the sun disappeared for months. my body was small but i did not know it. i ordered a large. it came big enough for two of me; the perfect sweatshirt, only dressier.

i wore it that summer, home in the Maritimes to visit, when we stopped at a friend’s cottage. my boyfriend’s buddy, younger, still in college. i hadn’t met him before. i didn’t see him again for a year. then he lived in another country for two: he grew up somewhere along the way. another year later, and our respective worlds dissolved and then collided.

there would not be another shot taken of just the two of us for five more years. but here we are, the first night we met, in July of 1996. fifteen years. a blink, or three.

there is a rock wall behind us, and water in front. you cannot see either, particularly. but i see them, as i see the one who took the photo, the one between us and the water. the one we smiled at, without guile. so much water to cross. so much left behind.

yet we still own both the sweaters that we’re wearing in this photo. Dave’s has fared worse than my own: what remains is a faded, mostly shredded collection of holes, like a child’s blankie loved too long. we still have the guitar. neither pair of jeans was long for this world.

i didn’t know, that summer night fifteen years ago, how the story turned out. it would have been too complicated to look in the eye, anyway. yet i stare at the photo looking for clues, for signs, talismans. do we fit together, like tectonic plates at right angles, waiting to be aligned? or is it all just chaos and choice and sheer luck, and hold tight to the shreds you’ve been granted? even if they do occasionally break into Whitney Houston songs in dead spite?

i don’t know. i do know that the friends who visited us this weekend would have seen a pair perhaps not so different from the two in this photo. older, yes. more distracted. but still at these odd right angles, distinct and yet easy in each others’ company. his hair is still longer than mine. there is often a drink in his hand. he holds the guitar more, lately.

i want to peer into the scree at the bottom of the magic teacup and conjure a picture fifteen years hence. gray hair, a few more pounds: that matters not. what i want you to tell me is that the picture will still look, somehow, like this one.

i will save the grey sweater, and see.

are there first photos of you and the one(s) you love(d)? what do they tell you of what came true?