At some point in my teen years, I inherited a cardboard picture frame. It was a very simple affair – one sheet of glass, several bendable metal tags, four cardboard sides – but it was appropriately chunky, good to the touch, and – and this bit is important – it was resilient.

My picture frame could be deconstructed and rebuilt a seemingly infinite number or times without falling apart completely, and I had a colour printer in my room, so hypothetically I could have put a picture of whoever (as long as there was a picture of them available….) in my frame. Understandably, a print-out from a basic inkjet was both more fragile and lower-quality than a genuine photo, but since I didn’t really have many photos, I had to make do.

Like I said: resilient.

Media tells us that a picture frame on (or near) one’s desk often has a picture of one’s significant other in it. I decided to repurpose my frame – which had been empty up until this point, acting as a decoration in its own right – for this purpose. The problem, being, of course, that I didn’t have a significant other.

For the next few years, therefore, my picture frame would inevitably be occupied with a printed-out picture of my current crush – who, inevitably, I would have a picture of, somehow. Its longest-standing resident (the girl-I-used-to-have-a-crush-on who I have mentioned here several times) was (and still is) a friend, and was particularly close to my sister, so there were plenty of picamatures around for me to steal borrow (there was also a flatbed scanner…).

Whichever picture was in my frame (which was getting increasingly battered as the years went by) served as both a decoration and an indication of who I was crying about in the foetal position on my bed every night. I wasn’t particularly shy (and was admittedly a little blasé) to my friends, or my parents, about the indication of the picture(s), and as my token black friend said about the time Soldiergirl was in it, “oh, she actually is really quite hot.”

I almost always had Wednesday afternoons off during the sixth form, and it became a sort of ritual that I would check, think about, and change my picture frame between coming-home-from-school and going-to-see-my-clinical-psychologist. If I had the same crush, it would stay the same; if there was someone new (or if I had more than one crush), I would flip the picture. I even put a picture of someone I saw in a newspaper there once, because I thought she was pretty.

Usually, the act of putting a new picture in the frame was a maudlin, wistful act – here’s yet another person that I can’t have – but, as time went on, it became more of a relief. With Soldiergirl, it was nothing more than jubilant, and in the very end – when my first actual girlfriend went in – my eventual feeling was one of absolute victory. This was someone who would go into my frame and stay there, and this time, I used Superglue to fix all the bits back together.

As much as I hated year 12, year 13 was one of the best years of my school life. And, as my picture frame stayed on its shelf gathering dust, I was out having adventures, no longer seeing life through a lens.

It was still a comfort, though, to run my hands along its thick, rough cardboard frames.