Happily Ever After
He keeps all his photos, and looks through them regularly. She’d never said so, but to herself she admits that of course it bothers her. In fact, how could he not see that it must bother her, knowing how much she loved him. Then she’d remember one of the reasons she loves him so fiercely is because he didn’t concern himself with ordinary living. He eats and sleeps with the purpose of maximizing time with his art. He’d been so thin when she met him that she had to fight the urge to call everyone’s attention to him, so that they could all pin him down and force feed him. It turned out he didn’t need to be pinned down, but only coaxed into eating and sleeping, coaxed into loving her. Artists, she’d always thought. They are like children.
Most of the photos in his inventory are landscapes from his traveling days, which also happened to be his most prolific days. He himself says they were clumsy learning days, and points out to her things he wouldn’t do today – he rarely lifts his camera now, it’s true, but when he does, there are no misfires.
She looks through old pictures with him and think them raw but perfect. Except, of course, for the many photos of Sarah. Sarah at the Taj, Sarah strolling along the Danube, Sarah with her elbows on the Charles Bridge, the Czech sunset behind her. Sarah never looked at the camera like the tourists they were in these pictures, instead was always caught in some secretive smile. Even when her face was only half caught in the frame the corner of her mouth would be visible, inevitably turned up.
He doesn’t much included people in his photographs now, at least not people he knows, and even then they are never the focus of his shot. If he photographs destitute hookers along an abandoned street, it would be the street leading to and disappearing into the fog that he focuses on. She has never been asked to pose in his pictures.
His art is more mature now, he says. He’s found his eye. She knows that is true. They were poor, Sarah and he, she knows too, just a couple of kids whose love couldn’t possibly last. He is a kinder man now, to her and to the world. She knows those things, knows how lucky she is to be handed a completed man who is as stable as he could be without sacrificing his brilliance. Yet she can’t help but be envious of Sarah who was there first, taking part in his life in a way that she could never be allowed. When he was still a boy who believed in sharing experiences, who couldn’t help but be vulnerable, and who was so in love that he wanted to record his lover’s face.
What Sarah has is a love that’s been broken so that it never run the risk of becoming ordinary. And what she herself has, is what oblivious and naive people refer to as happily ever after.
more by SOPHIE X. SONG
Photograph by Catherine McMahon