[This is a fictional entry!]
He was one of those people that faded from existence quicker than a flickering light on a dark, stormy night when you needed it most. One minute he was a concrete part of my life that I would never dare take for granted, but the next, he was gone. The fact that he knew I knew that I was lucky to have him around didn’t make it any easier when he left, either.
The day he walked into that photography class late and walked up to the professor to shake his hand, introduce himself, and apologize, I hated him. He wasted time. He drew attention. He was the type of person that I hated – I could tell by his arrogance. A couple weeks later when he sat beside me on a doubles project day, I wanted to sink into the janitor’s closet down the hall and pretend that I became ill with anything. Hell, I was considering faking period cramps. But I stayed. I stayed and sat by him as he stuck out his hand for me to shake like he’d done the first time I’d seen him. His pearly grin with protruding front teeth was so adorable that it sickeningly so. When we got outside to find a location, he admitted that he didn’t even know how to use the camera. What sort of college student doesn’t know how to use a camera?! It was just the switching of the lenses and the adjustment of the light, he claimed, but he looked lost the entire time that I tried to explain it to him. I remember seeing the other couples checking off the list of photo types that we all needed and just exploding when he asked another question; I didn’t even hear what he asked.
“Why are you in a photography class if you don’t know how to even use a fucking camera?” I asked. He shrugged and replied that it seemed fun. Not easy. Not challenging. Not helpful. Just fun. He didn’t seem to mind that I had snapped at him or that I remained upset throughout the duration of that day’s project. Instead, he just kept an easygoing expression on his face. It was so… Untouched. His eyes would look around at everything and I could see him taking it all like a sponge. Even the plainest of things that I photographed seemed fascinating to him. He didn’t need a camera to capture moments – he lived them to the utmost as they past. It wasn’t until he looked at the photos in the class that I started to fall in love. His face. His eyes analyzed the same things, many photos of the same subject, with the same look of awe as if he was seeing it for the first time.
After that, I asked him to do all of the projects with me. He was my inspiration and I was the photographer. We both got the same grade even though I did all of the work, but it was worth it to just watch him. To watch him watch.
At the end of the semester, we had to do a themed photo-shoot with a model. I based mine off of him. The theme: carefree. His project was mediocre in comparison to those of everyone else in the class, but he was easily the best suited out of the lot for modelling. There was one close-up shot in black and white of that toothy grin and it was so detailed that I could see the pores on his upper lip and chin. It was beautiful.
We stayed in contact after that and I used him as a repeat model. We’d have coffee either before or after the shoots and it was time with him that brought me closer to the moment that I would have otherwise raced through. To him, either away from the camera or in front of, it was irrelevant; they were all the same and deserved equal attention.
A year later, he stopped answering my calls for shoots and coffee dates. It hurt, but not in the way that most would imagine. I loved him, but I wasn’t in love with him. It hurt me as an artist and friend, but not as a lover. Maybe we would’ve reached that point eventually, but we hadn’t by that time.
Two days after my last attempt to contact him, his suicide was featured in an online college blog. Everyone was commenting about how great of a person he was and how much he would be missed. Others were about how he was an asshole to them that one time back years ago. Some were about family problems. None that I read were heartfelt at all, though. They all felt like they just exposed his death. But one of the latest comments on the blog post was that photo of his smile in black and white. Amidst all of the sadness and hate was my photo. Our photo. The photo of the carefree boy that I thought that I knew.