"Tilt your head a bit more to the right, to the left, okay there....Now, you --lean in towards the middle, eyes up here..." He gives instructions until we can't help but feel like the most awkwardly-posed marionettes, afraid to breathe, trying not to think of the single bead of sweat trickling down the middle of our backs that makes us want to squirm back and brush it away. His assistants move lighting equipment this way and that, others are supervising to make sure everything is done properly...and we're in front of them, the center of attention and enjoying it the least of anyone.
I feel a mosquito land on my elbow...and that's it for me.
I hike up the ridiculous dress I'm wearing, leave the high heels neatly posed where I'd just been stationed, and take off running. Lace snags on twigs and branches, dandelion seeds scatter in my warpath, dust sticks to my sweaty calves, and when I look back you're running right behind me with an amused, mirthful look on your face. In the distance behind us, I hear the photographer shouting, I hear my mother's voice in the same tone she used when she used to find clothes stuffed under my bed...but I pretend I don't. We abandon the clearing, the field, and emerge on the other side of the woods out of breath, having made our escape.
Then I see us in Ella's cafe, sipping lukewarm coffee and leafing through guestbooks to locate our signatures from various years. The air conditioning feels amazing, interrupted only now and then by the hot "whoosh" of summer heat when another patron enters to dine. I look up at you to see you have egg yolk all over your chin. Loopy from the heat, I start laughing so hard, I can't even catch my breath to tell you about the mess so I just point. "The yolk's on me," you say. I'm still laughing, but I shake my head, "Oh noooo..." I groan. "That was a 'me' joke..." And I chomp away at a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, letting the crumbs stick to my face and the crust dangle from my peanut-buttered lips. Then you start laughing too. Picture proofs lay on the table between us, several stacks at least. And there are only six or seven we actually plan to keep, a few of our backs as we high-tail it away from the camera, and one where we're looking back unapologetically.
Because those are the only ones that are actually of us.
I wake up, my hand lifting instinctively to my mouth, actually mildly surprised in my drowsiness to find the crumbs and peanut butter absent.
Photo by emmylou.virginia via Flickr.