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Love Affair with Photography

She hefted the Nikon to her eye and stepped toward a blond boy, who walked without seeming to notice the world around him. "Can I take your picture?" she chirped.

He shook his head as though startled awake. "Are you talking to me?" He straightened the books he nearly hugged into his chest, seeming more concerned with their falling than this girl or her question. She knew was late to Interpersonal Dynamic and, if he stopped, she would make him later.

Her sheepish eyes met his and she stammered, "Yeah. For my class. Photo. Art 150. With Smulcheski. Fran. I have it tomorrow. I need more pictures. I only have 5. It's 24 exposure film. So, can I take your picture?"

"Okay, sure. It's not like you can steal me soul." He gave a broad, cheesy smile. She squeaked enthusiastically and hopped, which made his smile far more genuine. "Just don't make me your final project, I don't need that pressure," he warned, wagging a finger at her and laughing again.

"I won't..." She turned the lens. Click. Whirr. Readjust. "...I promise..." Click. Whirr. Readjust. "...on my honor..." Click. Whirr. Readjust. " a girl scout." Click. Whirr. Readjust.

His eyebrows raised. "Well, Girl Scout, that sounded like several pictures and I only said you could take one. So, I guess you owe me a few pictures..."

Her embarrassment spread over her cheeks. "Oh... well... I... I mean..."

"I understand, I took photo last semester in high school. You have to take a lot of pictures to make sure at least one comes out. You'll have to show me after you develop them."

Relieved, she smiled up at him, which was a feat as they were the same height. "Oh, good, you know..." she began and finishing the rest in the process of a swift escape, "I've... uh... got to go now."

She ran from him, toward Hudson Hall, unable to put any minute part of the encounter out of her mind. She loved this boy with all her heart and soul. She had seen him around campus for the first time this week, and knew from the beginning that he was the one. He was different from these other boys, who just wanted to get in your pants and were obsessed with the size of their... lenses. She could still almost feel their sweaty hands on her body and smell their dank, alcoholic breath. He, on the other hand, would be caring and deep and special and sweet and chivalrous and magical and precious and strong and hot and warm and cool and sensitive and seductive and sensual and sexual and five foot ten inches tall.

This was the only time she had ever spoken to him, but she could tell. She had a sixth sense about these sorts of things. This time she was right, of course. Not like last time with Bill... but that didn't matter. It wouldn't matter to him. Now she had a piece of him, etched by a two hundred and fiftieth of a second of sunlight onto the stiff plastic of the film on the inside of her camera. She carried a part of him with her.

In a few years, they would get married and she could get pregnant and have a part of him within her for nine whole months. This time she would wait to get pregnant. This time it would be romantic. He'd be gentle. He'd stop if she said no, but she would never say no to him. Why refuse perfection?

She rushed off to the dark room, warm and safe. It was the only darkness that didn't panic her now. No one could touch her here. It was just her and her prince. She developed the film almost automatically, shutting off and floating away on fantasies of him.

When the chemicals had taken hold and done their tricks, she had him. Well, she had a very tiny, two-dimensional, inverted version of him. The film was still very soft, so much like him.

She needed to put it in the dryer, but would it be safe there? She would have to guard it so none of those whores would try to steal him away. She patiently sat in front of the door, not allowing anyone to get by her. Sure, the other girls said they only wanted to dry their film, but these could be lies. She couldn't trust anyone, not since it happened. But she could trust him.

She wondered aloud what his name could be. She was sure it was something dramatic and noble. His last name would have to sound perfect with her first name, since they were going to get married. No one could tell her different, not that she ventured to talk to anyone else. They wouldn't understand. He was perfect for her, not for them.

Once the film dried, she could make as many copies of him as she wanted to, just like after they got married. She could create as many tiny versions of him as she wanted and she would love them all as much as she loved him. They would all be perfect. She would be perfect. Seeing his perfect smile inverted in the film made her long for the day - soon - that he would press his lips against hers.

After the light had drawn all of his ideal features upon the glossy paper, she quickly placed him in the photo chemicals. Slowly, ever so slowly, she saw the fluid bring him out of the hidden depths of microscopic crystals in the paper. Oh, he was beautiful. Not handsome or hot. Other boys could be that. No, she was quite sure he was beautiful.

She put the paper through the remaining cleansers and fixers so she could take him out into the light for all to see. They couldn't have him, though. He was going to be hers, forever. She walked him out into the light so she could see his beautiful - not handsome or hot, but beautiful - face.

She beamed as she saw him in the humming lights of the lobby. He was beautiful and smiled only for her. Always.

His forehead, then nose, grew darker. No! She put it through the fixer. It was perfect!

She fell to the floor, weeping and clawing, as the bright light burned her photo to a uniform, glossy black.

Author's Note 2013/06/06: I'm not precisely sure anymore the conditions under which I opted to write this story, though I will warrant it was probably for a creative writing class and not something I wrote for the hell of it. I do see some elements of a few young women I then knew, who tended to project onto boys (some informed by adolescent traumas). I intended at the time to make more of this projection in regards to her use of photo equipment (she is literally projecting to get the picture of him). I recall a section about her burning and dodging to get the picture just right, thereby falsifying and correcting reality, but that version doesn't seem to exist anymore. For the time in which is was written, I don't think it is a bad little story. Like several earlier stories I wrote, they are more snapshots than developed pieces. Neither character gets a name, which was intentional at least when it came to the guy, since she doesn't actually know anything about him. The only name we are given is Bill, a prior entanglement who burned her and, it is implied, impregnated her. There are a few trigger-warning worthy lines in this, which I do not regret in retrospect, but which I think I initially included to attract attention and use emotional shorthand the story may not have earned.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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