I had a dream we visited a gift-shop. The store had an "N" out front – for what, I don't know, but it pleased me to think it was the same letter as the name I had before we were married. At first we thought it odd to meander the isles and see framed prom pictures displayed for sale. They looked like they were supposed be generic filler photos, like in the rows of identical frames at Aaron Brothers, only the dresses were several years out of fashion and the faces had the familiar poise we all held at my own prom. Even though we were not at The Grand Canyon a barrel full of the memorabilia that might have dangled on our first keychains stood next to another barrel of "class of 2004" trinkets. We pushed through buckets of wind-up toys and the trading cards I remember stuffing in the pockets of my first backpack in third grade.
I ran into someone I knew from college. Someone who'd been my friend for a very brief, but very lively semester. We were looking at a box of custom, brightly colored aluminum darts that had a fancy "N" for the shop's insignia inscribed on each one; it was the kind of thing an 8-year-old me I would have spent all my prize tickets from the arcade on: commemorative of the visit and slightly hazardous. He didn't seem to recognize its function and I giggled, tossing it at a stack of dart-boards hanging nearby. We laughed together and made a few more attempts before I noticed where my husband spoke to a girl our age at a similar box of trinkets. She aimed a tiny plastic phaser-gun from the box at him – the kind of toy I would proudly carry on my car keys now – and made the sound effects of shooting. He laughed and took it from her, pulling the trigger to show her its automated ability to produce laser-shooting sounds. I was displeased and jealous, but I ignored the moment having just had one of my own.
Others wandered into the shop. I knew some of them vaguely and I could see they knew me, but we were embarrassed at not being able to place each other and avoided one another. The growing popularity pushed us, the original passerbys, further to the back and we passed the shelves of prom pictures, the boxes of knickknacks, and found ourselves among the delicate porcelain and glass arrangements from Grandma's china cabinet. Looking around, my own friend reached high up on a top shelf and pulled down a coveted, vintage polaroid camera, "I wonder if it still works!" He aimed it at the other two and then pulled a stiff lever which gave abruptly – causing him to hit me in the face – and flashed. I remembered why I stopped being his friend.
The flash, interrupting their conversation, prompting them join our conversation. We introduced one another to each other and relayed the stories of how we met. More joined us, inspired by the exchange, to reveal who they were and make an effort to guess at the common events that might have connected us all. As the crowd moved in, the woman clung to my husband as if he were an anchor in a sea of people she wished not to have contact with - I could have been looking in a mirror, but my jealousy was becoming unmanageable and began to pull away. My former friend compared his Polaroid with someone else's found Brownie pin-hole and an even older twin-lensed Rollie-Flex. The exchange over cameras, photography being my own interest, and my place outside the conversation compounded my resentfulness and I elbowed my way completely out of the store, half-hoping to be noticed, half-hoping not to be stopped before I could disappear outside completely.