“Uh, what’s that?” the words sound muffled.
“I know THAT.” Roman puts down the hamburger. He’s still swallowing, his cheeks are greasy. Deniz wants to kiss him. “I mean where did you get it?”
“It’s my dad’s. I found it next to the travelling bag in the cupboard and I just thought – for memories.”
Roman grins. He takes the Polaroid and shakes it, like everyone does, although everyone knows it’s not necessary. He looks at it and giggles. “You’ll remember that burger very well.”
“Give it!” Deniz reaches out but Roman doesn’t hand the picture over. Deniz aims the camera at him again, but when the shutter snaps, Roman has turned away and moved out of the frame.
“I’ll remember that empty dune also very well,” Deniz mutters and puts the camera down on the blanket between them.
Roman’s laughing out loud now. He doesn’t seem to be able to stop.
“It’s not that funny.” Deniz starts laughing with him, because it is.
Roman pulls the picture from the camera. “This one is really good.” He holds it for Deniz to see. Slowly his own contours materialise from the grey background. His smile covers the whole picture and his hair –
“Oh God, my hair! Fucking wind!” Deniz combs his fringe back with his fingers.
“You look beautiful, Schatz.” It doesn’t sound like a joke. Roman’s face is earnest, turning from the picture straight to Deniz. “I’ll remember you exactly like that.”
Deniz looks away. His smile starts to fade, his heart growing heavy.
“See, I need it already.” Roman tenderly boxes into his ribs. “Let’s get out the other blankets and the tent; it’s starting to rain.”
They’ve been sitting under the rainfly for hours now, beyond talking. Everything important has been said. Roman is at his side, snuggled close, arms around his knee. Deniz doesn’t see if his eyes are closed. He doesn’t mind the cold anymore. His heart is warm and the stinging pain that he’d felt for the last weeks has been reduced to a low ache which is easier to tolerate or to even ignore. Relaxed, he leans back a few inches and winces at the stinging pain of a different kind. “Ouch!”
Roman frees the camera wedged behind Deniz’s back. He peers at the counter. “Two pictures left. Let’s take them before the sun sets.”
“Sun?” Deniz squints at the grey clouds above. “What sun?”
But Roman’s already looking through the viewfinder and scowling. “Shit.”
“I got water on the lens. The wind’s blowing the rain in my direction.” He wipes the glass with his sleeve. “We have to change places after I’ve taken yours. Smile!”
But smiling isn’t an option when you’re exhausted and cold. Deniz tries to compose himself again, grins a bit, looking out to where the waves come and go, where the green-grey sea melts into the horizon. He doesn’t notice Roman taking the picture.
“Your turn!” Roman tugs at his sleeve. “Sit where I’ve been, so you’ll have the rain at the rear.”
Deniz doesn’t want to move, but because Roman insists, he does.
“Look out at the sea!” He wants Roman’s picture to be like his own.
Roman snatches the Polaroid and puts it in his pocket before Deniz can see it. “What the-- ? Don’t you dare throw it away!”
“I won’t. Just can’t stand looking at it now.” Roman stares at the sea, just like before, and Deniz takes the picture again. This time with his eyes and mind only.
“You know,” Roman says, “when cameras were first invented, people thought taking a picture would steal their soul away.”
“Did it feel like that to you?”
“No, but I’m afraid that looking at it now might.”
Deniz doesn’t reply; he just moves closer and puts his arm around Roman’s hip. He feels his lover’s body moving with his breath. He hears the rain patter onto the fly. He thinks he’s found the perfect reply: that he still feels very much soul in Roman, that the picture will preserve the man he is, right here, in this very moment. But his eyes are getting heavier and his brain is slowing down, until he barely registers anything around him. He still thinks how he doesn’t want to fall asleep, how he wants to spend every minute awake with Roman. He’s done all-nighters before, all the time, why not today… but he cannot finish that thought before he falls asleep.
When Deniz puts away the coat weeks later, the Polaroids fall out of one of the pockets. He hasn’t remembered them until now; he doesn’t even know where he had put the camera after they returned.
Then he notices that Roman has written something on the white bottom margin of each picture. Deniz hadn’t seen him doing this; Roman must have looked at them later, probably while Deniz was asleep.
Next to the date are little notes: “Biggest burger ever – so tasty.” – “A dune worth remembering.” - "For you to remember how you're able to laugh!" – “I will not tell you how much I love you.” – “Soul not taken. Still here. AND in the picture.”
Deniz looks at each of the five Polaroids for a long time. They’re a bit blurry, in washed-out colours, but they make him smile and ache, just like his memories of that day.