The Lone Star flag, state capitol, great Republic of Texas. © Ryan Schierling
I was in a small room. I had my camera with a wide-angle zoom and on-camera flash. There was a sofa bed, with the bed pulled out. The sheets and blankets were a mess. There were no pillows. I stood in the one-foot space between the sofa bed and the wall, pointing my camera at the opposite wall. There was a dark couch pushed up against the opposite wall, with a large window behind it. There were curtains on either side of the window. There was a one-foot space between the sofa bed and the couch. There was a bright red sleeping bag unrolled on the couch. There was no apparent light source in the room, but I recall it being dim. Desaturated, all but the bright red sleeping bag.
I stood with my back to the wall, pointing my camera at the window. I wanted the flash to fire, I wanted a hot spot and reflection of me in the window glass, with the mess of the foreground.
I shot one frame, I looked at the back of my digital camera display. The flash must not have fired, or there wasn't enough light output. I adjusted it from its manual setting of 1/32 to 1/16. I shot one frame, I looked at the back of my digital display. Again, it looked like the flash had not fired at all.
I adjusted from 1/16 to 1/2 power. I shot one frame, I looked down at the back of my digital display. Standing in the one foot space between the edge of the sofa bed and the dark couch with the bright red sleeping bag, with her hand on the window and looking back at me over her shoulder, was a woman exactly my age. Tall and thin, dark hair, barely shoulder length, wearing a black dress with buttons all the way up the front. I looked up from the camera, startled and stunned, scared. There was no one there.
I woke immediately with a chill that went from my head to my toes, a chill that did not leave me for a good five seconds. I still get that chill every time I tell this story.
I don't remember you, or know what we shared. We haven't been together for 38 years. But I am remembering you, somehow.