I saw your picture once, black and white, framed by a white border. No date other than a hastily scribbled “1942”, and no place, no name, no epigraph or poem to your grandeur; only a smile and a gaze that could pierce even the most dense of lead hearts and bring fresh warmth to its core. I wondered what happened to you, to that dashing cape that pirouetted through trenches and debris until you and your rifle found your sniper-prey. I wondered if I knew you through another. I counted the degrees of separation. Six, or less. Yes, six. How close yet how far your beauty seemed. But I swear I recognised your smile, dearest, for I’d sworn on it before.
I saw another picture, long before. It was in colour, though it’s subject should well have been ultraviolet for this world could not contain her. She was not you, yet she too had an atomic smile, melting the walls around her. I knew her better, I think. Hardly, but better. She too wore a cape, one that kept her safe from the outside world, from their guns of quickfire bullet-insults and explosive rumours. I wondered momentarily if I’d ever truly know her. That one degree of separation felt like more than the six between you and I. But it was only one, in the same way that the Little Boy was only one bomb and Hitler only one man and my entire existence only one lifetime.
A picture is just a picture. A grain of sand is just a grain. A human is just a goddess descended from the heavens to teach us what we should and should not seek. You and I have no time – you came from another to mine. She and I have no place – we came from two different worlds, a heaven and a hell, doomed to a purgatory of longing – until at last another photo flies onto my writing desk and I fall all over again.
But forget me gently, won’t you?
Your empty ghost, who loved with an infrared kiss.