The Photograph

The first time he saw the picture he was walking in the streets of Madrid. After turning around the corner with his parents, he looked down and there it was, the photograph of two carved bone horses looking at each other. He picked it up, showed it to his parents, and took it back to the hotel with him. He was only ten years old, and it was his favorite souvenir of that trip, even when he still didn’t know how important it would be.

The second time he saw the picture he was fifteen, and he was on his way to his first serious girlfriend’s home. He had lost the photograph he once found in Madrid a couple of years before, and the thought of having lost it made him sad. When suddenly, he saw the picture lost in a bush, in front of his girlfriend’s house. It was the exact same photograph, the same carved bone horses looking at each other. He asked the girlfriend if she knew of it, but it was clear she had never seen it. He put it in his pocket and tried to not think much about it.

When he was 21, he was studying abroad in Cartagena de Indias. It was his last year of college, and he enjoyed reading in the park, getting lost in the romance of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. He closed his eyes, and could see them sitting in the same bench he was sitting on. Stopping his reading to look at the plaza in the burning light of noon, he saw there was a piece of paper next to him. He had been sitting there for two hours now, but hadn’t seen it and didn’t think it was there when he arrived. He picked it up and realized it was a photograph, the same photograph of the carved bone horses facing each other. He took the one he had found six years before, in front of his ex-girlfriend’s house, out of his wallet, and there was no doubt, they were the same image.

By the time he was 60 he had found seven more photographs just like the one he found when he was ten. He was married, had children, was about to become a grandfather, and hadn’t told anyone about the photos of the horses. He always found them when he was alone, and never when he was looking for them. His life, unavoidably, was marked by the occasions in which he had found a new photograph. Each period of his life was connected to finding a new image of the carved bone horses.

Three days after becoming a grandfather he found a new one, on his way to visit the newborn. He thought of the ten-year-old finding the first photograph in the streets of Madrid, and of the baby he was going to see, and he hoped there were many more photographs of carved bone horses in the world left to be found.

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