He looked through a stack of photos they had taken on one of their trips. He remembered standing in front of the camera. He remembered being told to smile. Why did she need to tell him to smile? Isn’t it obvious that we’re all meant to smile in pictures? And even if we weren’t, shouldn’t I naturally be smiling if I’m enjoying myself? Why did she have to command my smile?
When he had seen the pictures the first time, he was disappointed by them. He had loved the skyline, tower, animals or landmark they were standing in front of, but in these pictures she was always getting in the way. He could barely see the sun peaking through the twin peaks of some mountains because of her squinting, smiling face.
He could picture the beach that became an ocean which stirred him in its eternal horizon. He became giddy in the feeling of not being able to see the ending of something. He wanted to run into the water and through the ocean until he saw its conclusion, but hoped he never would. This was the feeling he wanted to capture through the lens of his camera. He didn’t want to capture the smell of the water in the air, or the feel of the soft and gritty sand underfoot. It was a perspective which inspired a feeling that he wanted a record of.
But she wouldn’t let him have his simple memory captured the way it was, she wanted to be in it. She kicked her sandals off and ran across the sand toward the lapping edge of the water. Her dress was pulled and tossed by the quiet, warm breeze, her hair matched the motion of its fabric. She let the water lick her toes as her body faced the ocean and her head turned to face him.
She was beautiful, she was perfect and the image was magical. She was intoxicating, she was a fairy. She drew all the attention from the endless horizon and brought it to herself. She stole it, she reflected it, the power of the waves became an extension of her loveliness. As he snapped each photo he knew that these were not pictures of the ocean with her in them, these were pictures of her with the ocean in them.
When he had first looked through the copies of them, he resented her for stealing the photos with her automatic charm. He knew the images of her were flawless and rich, but he had wanted to capture the beauty of the ocean, which was dull in light of her. He wanted to see something eternal, which was hidden in the now of what she was.
Looking at the images again, since she’d been gone from him, he began to cherish them. He realized that these pictures would have been nothing, pointless, meaningless if not for her turning and smiling toward the lens. He sat in silence and watched her frozen image looking at him with love through the photo paper as if something was going to happen. He wished he could live that moment eternally with the sounds, scents and sands. He didn’t have the eternity of the ocean in these pictures, but he did have an eternity with her locked in this moment with the bitterness of the knowledge of its finality.
He couldn’t see the end of the ocean that day, but there is one. He couldn’t see the end of his love affair with her, but there was one.