Posted on June 21, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair6.21.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson June 21, 2015: She had a way. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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I got maybe a hundred pictures of her, keep ‘em in a old shoebox on the top of my wardrobe, all thrown together and not in any order. Mostly they’s black and white pictures and some of ‘em a little crumpled and the corners all dog-eared. I look at ‘em some days, when the sky is grey and there’s the feel of rain in the air and the hands of the clock are slower than they should be. I look at ‘em, trying to recall how it used to be, but the thing is I don’t see her in any of ‘em, not how she really was.
She had a way with her see, a way of looking at the camera and giving something different to the viewer in those blink-blink moments. Her face lit up like carnival and Penny laughing and her hair flying behind her and everything looking pretty. I loved her back then, and looking at ‘em pictures I love her all over, feel a emptiness inside of me, a dull ache in my gut like I been punched some time ago, really punched.
But thing is, I know ‘em pictures is just a lie. Things in black and white is s’pposed to be honest and clear and simple, but it aint always that way. Penny was troubled back then, she just didn’t let the camera see that she was. There was dark things in her past, skulking like prowling black dogs, and she could hear ‘em, their hot panting breath at her back, their paws scritch-scratching at her heels, and their eyes fixed on her, burning.
‘Take my picture,’ she’d say, cos in those picture-moments she could be someone else, cos in those moments there was no dogs, no past and no future – just the moment that was now. And she was different then, and she smiled and laughed and was a child again.
I took so many pictures of Penny and in ‘em all she’s laughing and looking right at me and the look of a girl in love. And I love her over and over, even though it don’t do me no good now, leaves me cussing and punching the air and kicking at ghosts. And seeing ‘em pictures, though I knows they is just everyone of ‘em a bold lie, they make me think it was different back then. They make the black-dog days seem smaller and less often, almost like they wasn’t even real.
But at the bottom of the box, always somehow the last one I look at, there’s a picture of Penny undone. It’s a little unfocussed, and not like the rest. She’s laying crooked and laying with her head on hard stone, her eyes closed like she’s asleep, and I know it aint sleep. And I should have seen it coming, ‘cept I was blinded by ‘em other pictures, a hundred of ‘em and Penny smiling in all of ‘em and all of ‘em a lie.
And the truth is she’s gone now, been gone for so many years I done stopped counting. And some days, when everything feels like shit anyways, I take down the old shoebox and I look through the pictures I took of her and I feel alone and lost, and that’s the truth, too.
There’s a poster in the window of our local post office and it caught my eye. It’s about an exhibition that is maybe a week away yet and it’s for an art exhibition. I don’t know, there’s dozens of such posters and exhibitions in a year, but this one took my interest. Maybe it’s that the day was bright today and the sun was out and behind the clouds the sky was a bold blue. Looking at the day I was thinking that I might get out and cut the grass if it stayed dry. Anyway, I was passing the post office on my way to the shop for butter and bread and milk, and this poster stopped me.
It was a painting of a girl holding a camera in her two hands, holding it at about her middle and the strap hanging round her neck so that it was not like she was taking a picture of anything but like she was between shots or had just finished and was waiting for the next picture-moment to come along. The image was cropped – and maybe that was the way it was painted – just the ends of her hair in the picture and no head or face. Nothing below the waist either. Just a slice of her, just the middle so that her hands were almost the focus, and she was wearing rings on her fingers with gaudy stones, like something a small child might wear and think herself a queen.
The exhibition was a celebration it said, of the life and art of someone called Evie. I liked the name immediately – some names are like that and they dance on the paper or have a particular taste in the mouth – and so I read on. She was dead now, the poster said. Died aged only 21. Evie, dead, a girl at the very start of everything and everything at a sudden end, and it sort of got to me then: the picture that was only part of a person and Evie who’d had only part of a life and enough of a life that she’d left something behind.
And it said that she had her own take on world, Evie did, and here was a show of her work – not just paintings and drawings, but dance as well. I could imagine the film footage that would be shown, a small tv on a table or chair, with the soundless film on a loop, and a girl called Evie dancing on tip-toe to no music and her face serious and her body sinuous and slippy and the colours all Kodak yellow and blue and red and not like real life at all.
It didn’t say how Evie died. There were just positives on the poster, about who she was and what she was and the way she interacted with the world. It said she was beautiful and unique and alive – and I tried to remember what it was like to be twenty-one and everything new to me so that I was beautiful and unique and alive again, and I felt sad then, for Evie and for the boy I had been before and for the man I am now. I made a note of the date of the exhibition and I thought I might just go.