Photographer discovers his limitations
I like to call myself an amateur photographer. I like the intimacy of catching people 'in the now.' But many of my pictures of people dancing, playing and partying end up in the folder marked, shot in the back. I have a small collection of good stills. Pink hollyhocks against a stucco milieu, the shadow of a feral cat preening outside a rain-specked window, trees covered in hoar frost, that kind of thing. I allow myself one pure indulgence, a picture of the sunset every evening from my second story balcony.
Or the sunrise from the front stoop. When I'm too tired to do anything else, I set up a slide show on the Mac and follow the passage of my life in ribbons of blues, pinks, oranges, greens and shades of cloud white. It gives my mind context for rest, images to dwell on, replacing work-a-day chaos and confusion in my mind. She says it's regressive, like playing computer games. I should take a nap, she says. I don't think she knows about the other slide show.
Carol deflects my efforts to photograph her, though my camera loves her. She has a relaxed softness around her nose and mouth, open and wholesome. Her shaggy brown hair alive with prismatic gray threads.
On Saturday mornings, we wake slowly, together. Cool breezes slip in on sun slats through the sliding balcony door with sounds and taunting food smells from other apartments. The newness of touching each other in fitful morning sleep is delicious.
This Saturday I slid out of bed quietly. I thought I'd make breakfast-in-bed and save her the trouble of getting up. I snatched my camera from the nightstand and photographed her sleeping, tangled in pink chintz, her pale limbs twisted, languidly hanging over the edge of the bed. Moving backward, I tripped over a shoe. I caught myself, grabbing at the doorframe noisily.
"What are you doing?" She wiped her eyes and held out her long arm and fingers. "Give me that." Curling her finger in backward suggestion. "Com'on, give it up."
"No," I said, challenging.
She rose and strode toward me curling and uncurling her finger. I walked backward pressing the button as fast as my camera could focus.
"Give that to me."
"Oh, no, I've got you now," I egged.
She leaned and dove, grabbed, and held her hand in front of her face. I skipped and hopped backward to the kitchen.
"I love you! I want these in my slide show! No one will see them!"
She wasn't giving in.
"Come on, Carol, I love you, why can't I look at you?"
"In my underwear, half asleep, I don't think so! Oh, crap! I have to pee. You- stay where you are."
I quickly downloaded the chip into My Pictures.
"Here you can have it. My gift to you." I held out the chip.
"I know you already saved them. If anyone ever sees them, we are so over. Get the picture Randall?" She smiled but her eyes didn't smile.
"Sweetie, don't be mad. Go lay down. I'll make breakfast. You can sleep in."
She turned and walked stiffly back to the bedroom. I followed, quickly loading the chip into the camera. I stalked her, snapping a few keepsakes from the rear. Cute. I cut into the bathroom before she could turn around. In my mind, I could see her pondering the bathroom door with her chin on her fist, one French manicured fingernail tapping her pink lips. Ummm, sexy.
Sunday night my boys came over for poker. Carol picked up a few movies and locked the bedroom door behind her.
After the game broke off, around 1:30 I couldn't resist.
"Zeek, come here. Look what I got. Shhhh!" I said, holding my finger over my lips. I opened the folder and clicked Advance to start the show.
As Carol retreated into our bedroom in underexposed slides, she unlocked the bedroom door and waltzed into the living room in real time. She spotted the slide on the screen right away. Color drained from her face and neck. Humiliation screamed across her wide green eyes, her arms hung limp.
"Oh, God. Carol. I'm sooo sorry." I knew it would never be enough.
Carol went to our room and packed a few of her things in a small duffel bag and a box from the closet. I stood in the doorway watching, horrified by my indiscretion. Isn't it our nature to share the things we love? But then, Carol isn't a thing. Absently I picked up my camera. Aiming from below my hip, I pressed the shutter, again and again. Walking backward in front of her, I captured the images of her leaving, resolute, pressing forward, out of my life. As she drove out of the parking lot, I took a step back and closed the door.