A Vision to See

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SONNET 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find.

– W. Shakespeare 

David’s right eye is busted. But no more than both my eyes are blind.

At the moment, we could have met – he got mugged on the streets of San Francisco and suffered a pretty gnarly hit to his right eye. In his condition, it was understandable that he wanted to postpone our meet, at a time when he was feeling better and his wounds were on the mend. I could tell this was sincere because he went out of his way to call me to explain what had happened. (A boy actually calling? That is simply absurd.) In the short time we’ve gotten to know one another, and it has been really wonderful. He’s taken a liking to my IG photos and surprisingly, a very keen interest in my writing. As a result, he’s gotten to know me a lot faster and intimately than anyone I’ve ever met.

At first I felt strange at the thought of a guy I could potentially date, going in and seeing everything I am- bare and all. In the past, I’d been so ashamed of who I am and what I’ve done. That has always surfaced later in the life of my relationships and become a source of conflict. I decided that if he really wanted to read my writing, I wasn’t going to stop him. Who I am on paper, is basically who I am in real life. I’m proud of my writing; it has taken me so far and is the vehicle that will take me to even bigger places. But how is it that I can be proud of my writing, but be so ashamed of who I am?

I gave him permission to read it, confident enough in my craziness that if he can’t take it – he can just keep it moving. Surprisingly, the writing has intrigued him even more. So much so that he’s pushing for a date soon, but not before warning me and being slightly self-conscious about the condition of his appearance.

The more I pondered on it – I found there to be a cruel irony in David’s situation. His profession and life behind the camera is one that lives off of appearances. It’s ironic that what’s happened to him has altered his appearance and subsequently become the deterrent for our first meet. Despite that, it’s also a blessing that his attacker happened to hit his right eye, and not his left – which is his shooting eye. All things considered this is the most fortunate thing that could’ve happen to him. He’s still able to do his job, albeit a little bruised. But in this short week of getting to know one another, I wonder if the hit to his eye has skewed his vision and perspective.. because what in the world could he possibly see in me?

He’s only really seen me and likes me through the lens of my photos and writing but is that enough? And am I no better than he is, jumping into this, blinded by what could be love? In my doubt, I think about the thing that sparked our initial conversations, a love of photography; not the technical aspects, but the passion for taking a good photo, for striving to really capture the essence of the moment and freeze it in time.

What compels us to take a photo? Is it the chance, the hope that something incredible will turn out? I feel like my life has been the continuous pursuit of so many clicks, just hoping for that one perfect shot that will stick. I’ve bent over backwards, contorting and moving every which way, just to get the right angle. But what happens when the shot chooses you? What happens when you’re simply at the right place at the right time – and your eyes are open to the opportunity for something unexpected, amazing and life-changing?

Aside: David took this candid shot of me when I accompanied him on one of his engagement shoots. Talented or what? 😉

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The One That Got Away

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There’s nothing like the memory of a first love. And nothing makes it more memorable and heartbreaking when you have to watch that person walk away.

The other day I went to Starbucks to write and saw two prom couples taking photos. The girls were all decked out in long glittery formal wear. One wore pink and all the ruffles enveloped her – like a tiny bee lost in labyrinth of blossoms. The other wore blue, a mermaid out of water, shining radiantly with sparkles in her hair, like seawater glistening on her crown.

They looked so young and excited for the night ahead.  I couldn’t help but smile and think about that simple and innocent time in my life. When I think of high school, I think of Jay.

All love stories are the same. We were friends.

Jay and I met at a leadership camp the summer before our senior year. The camp was only a weeklong but we both made a lasting impression on one another. A month later after camp ended he had broken his arm in a horrific car accident and was unable to make the camp beach reunion. A week later, I drove out to the East Bay to visit him and bring him In-n-Out and show him pictures of the event and tell him everything he missed. We became fast friends.

In those early days, I would call him in tears at the thought of leaving home to go to college. He would confide in me about the development of his father’s illness. He’d accompany me to dances when I didn’t have a date. He’d ask me to come over to help him to look after his baby sister. We had to be friends because that’s all we could be. He was with someone else. When we were together, we laughed and experienced so much joy. But we both struggled with the definition of our relationship. We both felt it. After we’d see one another, he would go home and put on a face for his girl, while I got down on my knees and put my face in my hands. It was hard to be in love with your best friend.

Homecoming came around and I had no date for the dance and in his usual way, Jay came to the rescue. When he got me back to my house after the dance, he had the arduous task of helping me take down the countless pins in my hair. We sat on the floor of my room, stifling our giggles in the wee hours of the morning while he plucked my hair and counted each one. When he finished, I shook my head, closed my eyes and ran my fingers slowly through my hair. I opened my eyes and he leaned in deep and kissed me.

He broke my heart not too soon after that, professing undying love to his girlfriend and denying any involvement with me. What followed in the decade after was a stop-and-start fledgling relationship. At some point in all those years, I let go of my past disappointment and anger for what happened, and concentrated on one thing – being his friend; and that friendship has been the most fulfilling and bittersweet of all.

In my anxiety about moving forward in what could be my new relationship, I had to look back to my past, and look for advice from Jay, the one person who probably knew me the best. He confided in me about the complicated particulars of his relationship and how he would be going next level and asking his girlfriend to marry him.

I was happy for him but couldn’t help but think- had we missed our chance?

For a long time, I felt there was nothing to mourn. Though Jay and I never had the opportunity to be in a tried and true relationship, I treasured the fragile friendship that we did have. With my dad and grandma in the hospital and his father passing away, we have been each other’s sanity checks and shoulder to cry on.

After all we’d been through, would it soon be time to say goodbye?

I sit back and look at it as logically as I can. We would be horrific as a couple, so much so that it makes me chuckle just thinking about it. I think our relationship would be awful and amazing, vindictive and forgiving, volatile and serene, thoughtless and deeply loving, all at the same time. And at the end of it, we will have amnesia of every negative thing and only remember one thing- our friendship.

Perhaps we were lovers in a past life and that’s why our friendship has survived 13 years in this life. And just as he’s growing up and finding love and happiness, so am I. I think we’ve been here for one another to help each other on this never-ending journey. Soon, we’ll both have to walk away.  My heart will break a little and maybe his will too. I will look back on that time with fondness and I hope he will do the same.

Misplaced Memory

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The other night I was knee-deep in paperwork, trying to look for the pink slip to my car (don’t ask). Sifting through all that paper, was like taking a trip down memory lane. I was looking at stuff that was at least 10 years old. Business cards from failed ventures, from people I vaguely remember or purposely chose to forget. Scribbles of writing on pieces of paper that I probably wanted to work on for later, sadly thrown by the wayside. My birth certificate, old pictures, bills, paystubs, my evolving resume as I struggled to find a job.

Perhaps that saddest thing to see were remnants of relationships long gone. Post-it notes with simple professions of love from John. Old pictures with Cris and his family. I have no want of ever going back to that time, but my heart ached. At one point each of these men were the focal point and the center of my life. And I was that for them. But here they were now, just a piece of a paper in a forgotten pile. Aren’t all relationships destined for this? One day, won’t we all just forget?

I couldn’t breathe and I sat back staring at this sad pile. I thought about Grandma who’s recently been struggling with her own memory. When she went into the hospital last month, I came by to visit her on my own. I hugged her and asked her how she was and did the best I could to make her as comfortable as possible. After being with her for about half an hour, she had a faraway look in her eyes and asked, “What’s your name?” My heart sank. “It’s me Grandma, it’s Virginette.” She looked at my hair, my face, and said, “You look just like my granddaughter. Her name is Virginette too.”

I turned away just as mom and dad walked into the room. I buried myself in a box of tissues and wondering why she couldn’t remember. She could always remember mom, dad, and JR, just never me. I’d never felt so alone and discarded. I knew she loved me but wondered what was so unmemorable about me that Grandma would forget.

I think about that movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where a couple suffers a horrible breakup, and they go to extremes to erase any memory they have of the relationship. I recall there being a time when I wanted to do that in my relationships. I wanted to erase every single thing because it hurt too much to remember. But what happens when that time in life is something wonderful?

My childhood was wonderful mostly because of Grandma. She’d walk us to and from school and would be the one to cook for us and prepare our lunches. Everything she did was out of perfect love. This is what I remember of her and it pained me that she couldn’t do the same.

I will never forget anyone’s who’s greatly affected my life and I’d like to think that they wouldn’t forget me. I’m just having a hard time dealing with the transient nature of relationships and life in general. Nothing is forever, I know, but is it so wrong to crave for something that will actually stick?

As I move forward now, I wonder if I’ll be a shadow of a memory, or a scrap of paper in the bottom pile of someone’s desk. I’m so tired of being someone’s past and not someone’s present.