Picture This


I took pictures of the train station, the bustling clamor of humanity rushing back and forth with someplace important they had to be, with no time for being polite, or saying “excuse me”, “please”, “sorry” or “hello”. They walked with furious speed around each other and pushed by with elbows and shoulders, everyone’s destination and schedule the most important one, of course. Shan and I walked slower, musing over everything we saw, heard, smelled, felt. We annoyed the living hell out of those commuters, but that morning we had all day in front of us, and we were going to enjoy it. I couldn’t stop giggling and neither could Shan.

The crush outside the train station was even worse somehow. People milled around waiting for either buses, taxis or family to pick them up on the street that was way too narrow for that purpose. I had to turn sideways to wedge through some of the crowd, and Shan did the same thing a couple of people to my right. I turned and raised the camera fast, but just as my finger came down on the button she flipped her hair behind her with one deft move and smiled that award-winning, heart-breaking smile, and that’s what I caught. I couldn’t believe it.

“How the heck do you do that??” I whined.

“Do what?” She knew what I meant but loved hearing me say it. And I guess I loved saying it, too, because I always did.

“Know when I’m about to snap you. It’s like you’re linked to the cam or something. I can’t press the button fast enough to get you before you pose.”

“I don’t know what you’re yappin’ about,” she grinned. “I’m just naturally pleasant and smile all the time. It just looks like I’m ready for a picture.”

“Oh, is that it? You ‘tard.”

“Let’s have a look.” She reached for the camera. I pulled it away and laughed.

“Oh, so you weren’t ready, but you want to see how it turned out?”

“Yeah.” She stifled a giggle. “Okay, maybe I was a little ready, but just a little. C’mon, let me see it.”

A blaring horn, a scream of rubber on the street, and a loud curse snapped her head around with a tiny yelp when I flipped the camera mode to see what we’d taken. I had to scan past the pictures from the train and the station, and it took a while, so Shan stared up at the dizzying buildings, towering over us.

“Got it yet?” She turned to me.

She saw the look on my face and froze.

“What?” she said, her voice breathy and thin, her face pale. “What’s wrong?”

I couldn’t answer. I stared at her, my eyes welling with tears, and I trembled so hard she couldn’t see the viewer screen. She reached out, eyes locked on mine and brow furrowed in worry, took the camera and pulled it toward her. I tried to resist but had no strength; it all drained from me with the blood from my cheeks.

She stared down, confused. “What’s wrong?”

I tried to explain, tried to say something, but only agonized chokes came from the depth of my throat.

“How’d you do that? You made the background look all … dark and … I dunno, like it’s not really there. How’d you set the camera up?”

She looked up at me again, and my knees were collapsing. I stumbled to the stairs leading to a building entrance, under a wide, sheltering soffit covering the sidewalk. Shan came to me a moment later, and sat beside me.

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