He doesn't know why he is bothering, there will be a new apartment a few months from now, he'll have to do it all over again. Each time he relocates he has to do it all over again, re-hang the photographs, sometimes he doesn't even get that luxury, sometimes he has to leave it all behind and run. He would question the intelligence of leaving such a tell into his social life behind, but if someone could find his apartments, they probably knew all about his social life anyway. He did not have one, he had work, he had co-workers, those were his friends.
He holds up the picture of Dom and Mal first, tests the framing on the wall, moves it around, tries to find the precise location, the perfect spot on the wall. Dom is smiling, it is a real, full smile, it is one Arthur has not seen since Mal died. Beautiful Mal, her hair is spilling against Dom's shoulder, they know Arthur is taking their picture, but they look so natural, so in love. It is not the Shade and the Extractor he is hanging up on his wall, it is the memory of those he has lost. He finds the perfect place for the picture, hangs it carefully, stands back, fixes the slant of it a few times, abstains from getting the level to be sure.
The next picture he takes even greater care with, it is sepia-toned, a reproduction of a photograph he lost long ago, he keeps data-backup of everything, in-case something important gets lost. Like memories, he always has the memories close, doesn't let go of them. A young woman with Arthur's eyes stands in front of a model-home, it is just like the dozen other homes on the block. A smart looking young man in a well-pressed Air Force uniform stands beside her, his smile bright, she does not smile much. Arthur doesn't remember her smile at all, only the thin press of her lips together, stiff embraces, the brittle quiver of her voice. He hangs the picture up slightly above the first, off-setting pictures on the wall gave the arrangement an artistic warmth.
The final picture in the box has a frame that does not match the other two, at first this bothered Arthur. The company that crafted the frames for him of usual had stopped production of his usual model, leaving only two, but not hanging up the picture at all felt wrong. The photographs are the first thing he sees when he comes "home" for the short amount of time this is home, they exist to remind him of what he has lost, of what he has never had. Not having that final reminder feels like a stab in a place he doesn't want to quantify.
He matted and framed the photograph carefully, chose it from many he had taken, it had taken him four days to finally choose the right picture. This was months ago, he'd lost or had to move five more times since then. He could only spare enough time to hang the pictures between jobs, and Cobb lined them up like if they stopped working, stopped moving, his shadow would catch up to him.
The photograph is of a man, there are dice tumbling from his right hand, he is grinning, his gaze on the Craps table, on the chips and felt. In his left hand is a martini, half gone, the detail is enough that one can make out the exact line of liquor left. The man needs to shave, his jaw is scruffy with new-growth. There is a tie around his neck, but it is undone, his shirt unbuttoned to the second button. It is hand-tailored, as are the man's slacks. The man's shoes shine, it is not visible in the photograph, Arthur knows they do, he remembers shining them. Arthur is not careful in hanging this photograph, he leaves it on a slight tilt, stands back, studies it. The blur of the dice is red, Arthur can remember them, he has a perfect picture of them in his head, how they were slightly clear, the hardest dice to make into loaded-dice.
They are the dice he used as the mental basis for his loaded-die, after his original totem was compromised. Eames doesn't know that, Eames has never seen his totem, at least not yet. He's never seen Arthur's home, never seen the photographs the man keeps to remind himself of what is gone, of what will never be. Arthur knows he will never have Eames, but he has his picture, takes it from apartment to apartment. It is enough to come home every night to see his picture, has to be enough, he knows he will never have the real thing.