To Remember and To Forget: Burning Photos of Ex-es

I have been searching for several days now, for some photos I took years back of a protest. There are two large plastic containers which I assume they must be in but as it happens, without a filing system, I have had to look through each and every envelope to find those photos. Along the way, I have in more than one occasion found photos of many of my old friends. Some have not changed at all. Others have not been so lucky. And still others have gone on.

It was in this search that I came across an unmarked envelope. Inside were photos I had completely forgotten I had: they were of an ex-boyfriend and his family. Happier times. What the photos neglected to infer was that it would be some months after they were taken that he would tell me he wanted to be with someone more successful.

I did not even know I had these photos until I pulled them out two days ago.

I looked over those photos. A man who had become an absolute stranger from one moment to the next, held me at his side. It was odd to know that the tears I had cried then were for fleeting moments and an end that I knew in my gut would come to pass. I was thankful that he had ended it because I would not have been able to and I know that had I not become single afterwards, I would have never ventured out so far into the arms of adventure.

It dawned upon me that I had unknowingly brought down to Cancun this obstacle, in the form of photos. And I knew that the only way to move forward was to burn them.

I wanted to show them to friend and tell her about this man. And as I spoke, I found patterns in my behavior and an ill-gotten thorn in my side.

The dark conclusion was that I was the purveyor of my own unhappiness.

My friend sympathized. She too kept photos of her ex-es. But because she wanted to hold on to the memories of what she looked like then. We both knew, however, that it was the fear of letting go. We may both say the words of sage advice to each other but we were also both very guilty of what we thought were the crimes of others.

At one point, I had faltered: would I want to keep one photo? But inside, there was a thought churning. I will be leaving this country and both physically and mentally, I will leave all that I do not ever need again, behind.

So, both of us, armed with matches, lit opposite corners of the envelope where the photos of my distant past lain. The flame slowly made its way across the envelope and I could see the image of my ex under the fire.

“It’s not burning,” my friend said, as if the photos did not want to burn and was reminding me how long it took me to move on. I kept lighting more matches but it remained a small flame. I took hold of a side and held the envelope up. The small wisp of flame licked straight up the envelope and the photos, creating a massive plume of fire.

It only began to really burn when my friend came back outside, with photos of her own. With each photo she added, the flames reached higher into the night sky. All those photos she said she had kept were now being thrown to the fire. She paused on one. A happy couple that once was looked back at her.

She threw it in.

In a matter of minutes, the pile of photos became a smoldering pile of blackened ash. There was no way you could tell that they were once treasured memories.

We hugged each other and there was a strange sense of freedom that resonated between us.


Somewhere in the cosmos, I felt a star being born and its light had found me.

Somewhere, someone sighed of relief.

And somewhere else, Destiny and Adventure call to me, fresh-faced and beaming.


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