September 12, 2023, by Lauren
Polaroids (Ending an old friendship)
It’s quite hard to burn Polaroids. The lighter flame keeps going out and she’s still smiling in the photo.
If I wasn’t stood on a bridge, on a windy morning, maybe it would be easier, but I still don’t really think the flame would take. I can’t think of anyone I know who would be awake right now. Probably that’s why sunrises are so aggressively associated with new beginnings, new starts, and all that nonsense – we want to believe there’s some reason that we’re awake and seeing it.
(You, an especially special citizen, have been shaken from your sleep to receive this sign, to tell you that you are starting a New Beginning in your life).
I don’t need telling, though. I know what I’ve done. There’s no warm glow spreading through me from this New Beginning – my fingers are raw with cold, and my eyes are streaming from the lively wind that this stupid bridge is exposed to. I couldn’t get back to sleep.
The photo isn’t burning. I’m holding it as steadily as I can and reassuring the flame by cupping my hands around it. My hands would be picturesquely warmed if the flame wasn’t going out repeatedly. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, right? But despite jamming down the lighter’s button as hard as my frozen hands will let me, the flame barely lasts a second.
The teasing wind isn’t the only problem. No, every time the worried lighter flame touches the glossy surface, it gives up. The photo must be a million degrees by now – I’m bathing and bathing the upper left corner in the flame, and it still doesn’t burn. It hasn’t even singed her eyebrows. I think it was the last piece of film in the camera. It was expensive stuff, ordered online. Out of all the acquaintances in your life, not everyone is worth your last piece of film. She grins in the photo and I must have smiled back at her.
Finally, I just drop the thing into the lake. The photo is far too intact, and I don’t know what will happen to it. People in rowing boats may glimpse that smile: siren-like, it could bewitch. Surely, the water will subdue it. After all, it’s only paper. But I wish it had landed face-down.
The lighter goes back in my pocket. So do my hands, which conduct a quick survey of my pockets. Lighter, room keys, no picture. By way of confirming this inventory, I traipse back to the bridge, but I can’t remember where I stood. Not at the start of the bridge, I’d gone further than that. The wind hits strongest at the middle of the bridge, so I lean over to inspect my little victory. Ah. Water moves, so of course the photo is gone. Right. Well.
If you’ve recently ended a long friendship, or are having similar issues, you might be struggling to come to terms with this. Feel free to browse these links for support:
- For UoN students and staff – Try Togetherall, an online community which you can participate in anonymously: Togetherall Wellbeing App – The University of Nottingham
- Advice from UoN, including wellbeing strategies and links to relevant support based on your situation: Mental health and wellbeing – The University of Nottingham
- UoN’s homepage introducing the University Counselling Service and the types of support it offers: The University Counselling Service – The University of Nottingham
- Nottingham Nightline – a student-run volunteer organisation, offering phone calls, instant messaging, or email if you need to speak to someone. Available 7pm-8am every day, or 24 hours during exam seasons and the Welcome period. You can phone them on 0115 9514 985 or visit their website: Nottingham Nightline
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