Had Natalie thought to photograph cherry blossoms before the plague hit, she would have remembered the spell-binding joy of looking up at the patchwork of pink against blue. She would have recalled the soft breeze rich with airy petals and the pink carpet that cushioned the sidewalk.
After the plague had wiped out their memories, people turned to their social media posts to recreate some semblance of their past. Natalie’s photographs leaned towards the mundane; the dinner she had with friends, endless selfies and all the shoes she was contemplating purchasing once her paycheck cleared. What she never photographed were the secret moments, like the great sex she must have had with someone (man or woman she couldn’t be sure) who had given her an opulent diamond ring. Maybe this person was in one of her zillion group shots where everyone is smiling moronically for the camera and the focus never quite lands.
And while Natalie is saddled with an incomplete picture of her life before the plague, she is no worse off than most people in her age group. The older folks, those say who were still on Facebook at the time the plague hit, had countless pictures of milestone moments to reference — the graduations, the weddings, the birth of grand children et al — but little in the way of great restaurant meals or a visual compendium of future purchases. In this way, they’re able to find family and friends, but once reunited, have little to share.
It was as if the cloud, this vast repository of data, held us tight, serving as an imperfect and neutral guide to whom we were, might have been or wished we were.
Natalie now spends her days tracking down all the shoes she had casually photographed, hoping that once she slips her foot into a shoe she’d be able to summon hidden details from her past. But like Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, the love of the Prince, (or Princess) remains stubbornly beyond reach. Maybe there was no significant other? Maybe Natalie, convinced that true love was either a myth or something that would remain stubbornly out of reach, purchased the ring for herself. She’d never know. As the weeks and months pass, Natalie slowly begins to build a new identity. Now she photographs the ineffable, the action happening just outside of the frame, the bird about to take flight. In this way, should the virus mutate, her new set of images can serve as breadcrumbs, leading her back home to herself.