The fact that you found these photos seems impossible. I picked them up at the foot of Ishmael’s bed after he moved out of our shared hostel room nine years ago. In Paris, he was my first friend. We knew nobody so we clung to each other for a month. He’s somewhere in Turkey now I would imagine. I was young and had a crush on him, you can imagine. And our control of French made subtle communication impossible. But I never said I was gay for the entire month. Almost once though; we were sitting by a bed of narcissus in the Luxemburg Gardens. He had made a friend who said he might be able to find him a room. But if it fell through, could I make some room in my place? Or we could flat hunt! He would imagine that it’s easier to get an apartment in Paris with a friend than alone. For the French that’s hard. For a foreigner, impossible!
I agreed. We could save on furniture by sharing a bed…He laughed away what I’d been trying to say all month. His laugh made me shy, but all that first month in Paris he hadn’t played straight. In our room, he’d put his hand on my arm when we talked. In his bed, around two with the covers on the floor…no need to imagine what was beneath. Did he think I had done the impossible and not look? Ami means what? Just friend?
But I’d found a job, a flat and some new friends quickly afterwards. We met for coffee once a month. His hand on my knee, he’d say “c’est impossible le français!” His French school had found him a room. He invited me over several times. I imagine it was nice. In a year he was in Istanbul in his old bed.
But these photos I found at the foot of his bed aren’t him. They could be a cousin or friend. The boy has his hair. They were close I imagine. I meant to return them. But month after month I’d forget. And when Ishmael moved from his student room home, I lost his address. So it was impossible. Like it’s impossible now to separate that bedside image from our hostel room with the friend from that first month whose face now I can hardly imagine.