This is a story about a picture and the little bit of life it captures.

You see, Mal and I broke a lot of photo conventions. The other day, I noticed something: in half of all our group photos, I’m next to her, a good 10 inches separating the crowns of our heads. How did this odd couple come together time and again? It’s simple: it’s because of the times I had with Mallory that we didn’t get on film.

Like the time that Mallory and I spent 4th of July figuring out how we could “jailbreak” her from the C wing of the Stanford hospital to go to a friend’s party.

The doctor and resident appeared, and Mal just had to answer a few questions and push her next check-in by an hour. Everything was going smoothly until Mal, casually looking over at some food that Diane and I had picked up earlier, said the p-word. As in, “oh, that stuff would be great to bring to the party.”

Mere seconds after the words escaped her lips, I felt my phone buzz: “OMG – John heard me say party and looked up !!!!!!!” 7 exclamation points. Next came a frantic, “Did you hear what I said???? OY.” Oy, indeed.

But we had a happy ending. 20 minutes later, we made it to the party, basking in a proper 4th of July celebration with good company.

That day, Mallory and I took one picture—a classically mismatched shot of us. Just as we appear in the frame, side by side, we lived off camera, embracing laughter, adventure, and the secrets of friendship. Mal had a magnetism unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I adored her, and thank my lucky stars for her presence in my life.

After all the memories we forged, it’s no surprise to me that when there was a photographer at the ready, I found my way next to the tall, blonde, blue-eyed girl in the middle, conventions be damned, because there was simply no place else I’d rather be.