Take me to another place, she saidI remember the lies Cole would tell me while he took my picture. Elaborate lighting, a table full of lenses and filters. Rolls of film lined up that would soon enslave him to the darkroom that would someday be shoved to a remote location by virtue of Ruth needing a bedroom of her own.
Take me to another time
Run with me across the oceans
Float me on a silver cloud
If I could I would, but I don’t know how
If I could I would, but I don’t know how
If I could I would and I’d take you now
Stay with me till time turns over
I want to feel my feet leave the ground
Take me where the whispering breezes
Can lift me up and spin me around
He would tell me things to evoke responses, capturing my emotions, shooting me when I was surprised, laughing, shocked or disappointed. Vulnerable. Pushing me, goading me, tricking me. It took me forever to catch on. For many years I thought he was simply only comfortable talking from behind the camera and he was saving those times for our longest conversations.
It was only toward the bitter, violent end that I understood he was harvesting my feelings, exploiting my face for his work in the worst possible way. He was making his living selling my feelings, and they weren't his to take. I have an incredible range of expressions and very little means of control when it comes to showing what I'm feeling. The moment it occurs, you will know, whether it's surprise, dismay, protracted grief or sheer panic. It is worse if I am angry or badly surprised. I have no poker face, I am the mask. My eyebrows and my mouth work in conjunction with my eyes and I will tell you I'm fine and you'll still know something is wrong, because it will be as plain as the nose on my face.
So when Cole exploded (because I don't say died. Even though it's been four and a half years now, I say exploded because that's essentially what his heart did and it wasn't his fault, alright? So just DON'T.) I burned every picture of myself that I could find.
Everything that was negative. Everything that was horribly invasive. If I never saw my face again on one of his brochures or on a bill advertising one of his shows it would be far too soon. The boys each have some favorites that they won't let go of, even though they have been so helpful with um..wheelbarrows and lighter fluid and long warm hugs, at the end of the day they have their own memories to keep and I don't have the right to rip those away.
I keep finding these pictures everywhere. They're tucked into books and slid down backs of drawers and scanned to websites faster than you can say smile so it's become a regular occurrence and I am all but immune to it now.
Except for one thing.
Caleb's collection of his brother's photographs.
It's immense, what he has. Possibly one or more copies of just about everything his brother shot, which means Caleb has the largest collection of photographs of me in existence. And not just any photographs but the most personal ones, the expressive ones that formed the backbone of Cole's portfolio. Those pictures became his breath. My soul was his life.
Caleb, not surprisingly, refuses to part with them.
Actually, he won't let me anywhere near them. He does not keep them at his penthouse, instead they are preserved in a private gallery somewhere (not on display) and the invoices are held so I don't even think I could find out where they were even if I dug very deeply. I can't trick him into telling me and asking nicely for them elicits a bitter laugh. And I have asked. Every week for a long time since I discovered the extent of his collection because Caleb slipped and threatened Lochlan in an email that I wasn't even supposed to see but did. I subsequently found scans of everything on Caleb's laptop, because what good are photos you can't look at when you feel the urge?
Cole's photographs were his words. They captured the moments he wanted to remember, he displayed them for all to see, he did not for one minute believe that taking someone's picture would shorten their shadow, hasten their death or force out their soul to be forever trapped within the borders of an image. He wasn't superstitious, forcing me to regularly walk under ladders, open umbrellas over my head indoors and lose my soul in his flash.
And I did, because I worshipped the ground he walked on.
He was God for so long I had a hard time believing Jacob when Jacob told me I was wrong and an even harder time believing that God even exists at all after Jacob flew and that maybe I had been right all along.
It wasn't until that Jacob was gone that I realized the gift Cole had left for me, maybe without meaning to, maybe without intending to. You see, he gave my soul to Caleb (or maybe Caleb just took it, like he's taken everything else) but in return he gave me Jacob's.
I have so many pictures of Jacob and even though it's difficult to look at them sometimes, okay, it still remains completely impossible, since my hands begin to flutter so badly when I touch the boxes I keep them in that I can't open the lids and I've continued to take that as a sign that I'm not really ready yet. (Besides, it's easier to flick the switch on the DVD player and watch him on video. Shhhhh. ) Even though I can't look at them, it's comforting to know that his soul is still here with me. Maybe he might be horrified to learn this, or maybe he already knows.
I am guessing he knows. He bore witness to my frantic attempts to destroy all of the pictures Cole took and he would laugh when I told him why. He agreed and brought out the lighter fluid, but not before selecting several pictures to keep for himself, pictures I have not found to this day and I'm pretty sure he took some cues from Caleb and hid them somewhere so that they would be safe, maybe it was an attempt, like the boys have made, to keep enough of me in the light so that Caleb would not wind up with everything.
You hear that? Listen closely. Caleb. did. not. wind. up. with. everything.
Today I am surrounded by stacks of photographs. These are the ones that will be distributed amongst everyone here, since I have already packaged up the prints that will be sent East as part of the Christmas gifts going to extended family, the ones taken several weeks ago by the poor photographer who had planned to stop by for twenty minutes and wound up staying for hours. In these pictures I am smiling. A contentment I didn't register until last night when I was pouring over them.
Photographic proof that I'm not as ruined as I once thought I might be. You should see my face right now, on realizing this.
Someone ought to take a picture.