Time passes, people vanish. Some die, some you just don’t talk to anymore, not even on Facebook, and all you’re left with is memories. I always wish I’d taken more pictures to preserve my memories of certain beloved souls, but by the time regret has set in it’s too late—they’re gone. These pictures are an attempt to re-create the moments that some of my friends and I wish we’d photographed—a kind of do-over. They are a defense against forgetting, a remedy for regret. They are visual representations of the contents of our hearts, which feel heavy because they are full of love.
Thanks to Carmiña, Leo, Mayte, Cuauh, Manolin Adrián, and Zaid for their help, and to to Zaid, Fera, Allz, Lalli, Elvia, and Ricky for sharing their memories with me.
This first photo is about my dad and me.
It all started with a phone call. My mom told me I had to come home right away because my father was going to be “leaving soon.” I took a bus to Mazatlán with my sister and I remember feeling so anxious but trying to keep my cool because I didn’t want my sister to worry even more than she already was. “Do you think he’s going to die this weekend?” she asked me. I said no.
When we got there, we all ate lunch together in his hospital room. My mother and my sister had some errands to run, so I stayed alone with my dad that evening. I was wearing a Police T-shirt, a gift from him. That was one of the things we shared—we both loved the Police. He had lost his ability to speak, and I remember telling him that that scared me. I told him about the guy I was dating, and that we were about to go to Veracruz for a Björk concert. I told him about my plans to make music. I told him all of my plans. I ended up singing to him—“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star—because he always said he loved hearing my voice. I started to cry and couldn’t finish the song. He squeezed my hand and I felt safe. It felt like time had stopped forever.
We were still holding hands when you died the next morning. I was the one who had to let go. I didn’t let go until your hand was cold.
I love you for 10 thousand years, maybe more. Definitely more.
Elvia and Nacho.
Elvia: We met in middle school in 2005 and became best friends very quickly. We were both 15 years old. I could always count on Nacho to protect me. He always had my back. I remember I’d started seeing this “bad boy” that my parents didn’t approve of, and Nacho helped me hide the relationship from them. They eventually found out anyway, though, and I ran to Nacho’s house and into his arms, sobbing. He told me that everything would be OK. The next day he took me to a pet store to cheer me up. I fell in love with a bunny there and brought it home with me. I still laugh when I remember all the times that rabbit peed on Nacho’s lap. We had so many good times, the three of us together.
My bunny died in 2007, and a year later Nacho died too.
I’ll always miss you. I love you forever.
Allz and Alán.
Allz: I celebrated my birthday in 2010 with my best friend, Alan. He was leaving that night to go to London for six months for a photography course, but he didn’t want to miss my party. He gave me a card with a picture of Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. We liked to jokingly relate to them, like they were hawt bitches who hung out together and so were we! On the back of the card he wrote, “Por siempre Mae” (“forever Mae”) and the date of my birthday. Mae was the nickname we used to share. The night was a roller coaster, from being soaked in the rain, dancing, drinking, and going back home extremely late, worried that he would miss his flight. When we said goodbye he gave me another card with another picture of Bey and J.Lo. They were the secret language through which we expressed our friendship and love for each other.
That was the last birthday I spent with Alan. I only saw him one more time, when he came back from his trip and told me how amazing the experience had been. He died in 2011.
Alan, you know that I am not a person who keeps things. I move a lot, and I throw everything away each time. But I have kept those two cards you gave me in a safe place. They remind me how close you can feel to another human being, and how deep your love for a friend can be, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. I miss you.
Ricky and his uncle.
Ricky: I never met my dad; my male role model was my uncle. He was the best uncle anyone could ever have. He was the one who raised me, who looked after me. He also organized all ofmy birthday parties. When I turned nine, he brought home the most beautiful birthday cake I have ever seen in my entire life. It was five-tiered cake like the ones you eat at a quinceañera. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was all covered with icing and was topped with a huge rocket ship made out of sugar. I kept that rocket for years. I will always remember my uncle, the birthday parties, his warm hugs, his words of wisdom, and all those amazing cakes!
I love you, I love you, I will always love you.
Zaid and his great-grandmother.
Zaid: The last time I saw my great-grandmother, we were on a road trip from Mazatlán to Guadalajara to spend Christmas with my mother’s family. It was a few months before my parents divorced, so our whole family was riding together in the car. My bisa (that’s what I called my great-grandma) was sitting between my brother and me in the back. I got into a fight with the rest of my family, and I was really upset, and my bisa told me that I had two options: to either let go and get along with everyone, or to be bitter and miserable. I decided to let go and enjoy the trip, and I ended up having a lot of fun. That was the last time we were a family.
Later that day, I gave her a chocolate flower that I had gotten her for Christmas. She really loved it—not because she loved chocolate flowers, but because I gave it to her. Right after we got to Guadalajara, we drove her to my aunt’s house where she was going to stay. She died the next afternoon. She was cremated, and her ashes are kept in a cabinet with a letter my brother and I wrote to her…and that chocolate flower.
I still think of you often, of your stories about your travels around the globe, and how you made me feel whole and accepted.
Lalli and her mom.
Lalli: I’ll never get over the death of my mother, but I can feel her presence when I think about her. Sometimes when I go to bed, I close my eyes and jump into another world—the world she showed me, of creativity and imagination. She always told me stories at bedtime, and I can recall many of these tales, and the different voices and songs she’s perform in telling them. She was a prolific playwright, and invented many wonderful stories. I particularly remember Red Riding Hood 2000, in which Red Riding Hood uses a cellphone and visits her grandmother with magical biscuits. The play had an ecological and pro-animal rights message that made a lasting impression on me as a child. I spent hours playing the lead in my red cape, with my dog Orion taking on the role of the wolf. I value the connection I still have with her through her writing.
I love you, Mom.
Fera and Ptolomeo.
Fera: Ptolomeo was my beautiful Pekingese dog. He had one blue eye and black one. He was the best company a girl like me could ever hope for. I remember one night when I got home really late after a party and I knew immediately that something was wrong when I didn’t see him at the window, waiting for me. I walked into the house calling his name, I looked in his hiding place under my bed, but he was nowhere to be seen. I started to panic, and I must have cried out, because my whole family suddenly woke up. I ran outside, yelling his name. It was the middle of the night, and the streets were silent and empty. I started to cry.
The next morning, still teary-eyed, I called my best friend, and together we printed posters and walked through the neighborhood until our feet hurt, looking for Ptolomeo. I even borrowed a megaphone and broadcast a request that all of my neighbors be on the lookout. If anyone had seen him, I asked that they let me know. “Please give me my dog back,” I said into the megaphone. “He’s mine and I’m his. I love him so much, and we need each other.” I was sure I would find him.
A lady from the beauty salon told me she’d heard that a woman who lives three blocks from my house had found a weird-looking Pekingese. I went straight to her house, but no one was home. I left a note on her door and went back home, sad but still hopeful.
Two hours later there was a knock at the door. The woman had come to return Ptolomeo to me. I hugged him so close. I served the woman a big piece of cake as thanks.
That scare showed me how important Ptolomeo was to me, and how much it would hurt to lose him. After that, I spent as much time with him as I could, loving his company, caring for him as much as possible.
My best friend is in heaven now. I know you’re up there, Ptolomeo, looking for me with your little blue eye. I will always be with you. ♦