You grew up believing the world was trustable. It was only through experience that you were able to learn discernment.
Daddy’s camera was a safe one. He caught you in stills all the way to age nine. They curl black and whitely before you in boxes. The year you were a girl scout. Posed against the Eucalyptus tree where he had fished out the boa constrictor. You had badges, and your manual, and he catches you in still frame with some other girls planning out the next big adventure or the campout up at Mount Pinos.
It’s not like you even remember who these people were because there will be so many people in your life, so many, that names become difficult. You look at the faces and you read the whole story.
You had wanted those badges.
You had set out to earn them.
Your Grandfather uses a Brownie Camera. He pulls out his albums and tells you whole histories of who everyone is, and where they belong, and familial ties, or non-ties, as you sit in the living room in the afternoon and he and your Grandmother are having cocktails before dinner.
The pinecones glow in the bed of ashes and the fire crackles happily along. The two of you had collected pinecones all day in Grandpa’s wheelbarrow. Other days you take long walks along Moonstone Beach hunting for shells and jade or the sorts of things that wash up from wherever they had come from. Seatumbled things.
Moonstones glint in your palm, washed freshly — the salt sweeping them spinning in the rocky coves where the wet stones glitter like jewels.
Your grandmother has packed a special lunch.
The two of you feast on it later — dainty sandwiches and deviled eggs and gingersnaps.
He poses you against the giant gnurled driftwood tree, and snaps.
Years later you will meet an artist who does the same thing.
His will be an impossible love.
He wanted to trap you in silver, maybe.
“Don’t,” you say, as he snaps the first one.
Your hands fly up to your face covering it as if you can bring this to an immediate halt.
In those years they want you to model and you are so shy, so shy that it pains you to do it. It’s not as if you don’t love the clothes, though. You do.
You put them on and they are costumes or camouflage you slip into or inside and you can be someone else so it isn’t even like it is you at all.
Your girlfriends drag you out dancing at 21.
They are thirty, and older, and experienced and they know how to handle the scores of men wearing twisted gold horn necklaces who come to the table. You sit posed like a mannequin watching the bags and the coats.
The first one who tries to grab you dancing was in Junior High but you escaped him. You never wanted to dance the slow dances did you?
Your friends order white wine. It’s what girls consume in those days where the 70’s waned into the 80’s overnight it seemed. They drag you along with them to all the clubs in town. They drag you to Chippendales. Once.
The year you go to Blackies everything changes. Because the music changed and you listen to The Clash.
This is the year of black leather jackets and pointy little boots. People stand alone on the dance floor, or they dance next to each other but not together. You sway in time to the music — ensemble, nobody making any sudden moves.
Art department Girrrl.
That’s who you are and you buy the combat boots to prove it.
There will be periods of your life when you wear nothing but black. Black skinny jeans, black skinny leggings, black smocks, black like darkrooms.
You’re there and it’s all 101 in college.
Everything 101 because you don’t know much yet about the ways of the actual world.
Some of them ask you to model.
You do this in the art department of the Department store where you work too.
You are the model they sketch for the ads — all charcoal as the fabrics drape in folds around you.
“Like that,” he says.
Click goes the shutter of the Nikon.
They need you for their assignments and you don’t mind because you are all in 101 together at that point learning about Bresson and Walker Evans.
The pictures float magically in the trays before you.
This is how you learn to bend light into grayscales.
“I’m going to seduce you, you know,” he says.
“Let me see that camera.”
You hear the shutter snap, and then it is a series of clicks. Click upon click until you are trapped in silver.
It’s going to take you years to be able to look back at that time with a clear eye, or an eye non-full of tears.
A day will come when you burn every one of his images. Every last one.
You will burn all your poems from that time too.
“Don’t,” you say, as the camera begins to assault you.
Infinity at f16.
In those days it’s all black and white and the movement of light and shadow and the recording of things for posterity and what he does is bring you a freshly picked rose every time he sees you and this starts something in the corners of your heart that you want to believe seems like love but it won’t be. It will feel like that for a time, and it will take you years to undo the damage that he does.
You were so young, and so trusting.
You never saw it coming.
* * *
“das kamera” copyright 2009 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.
*authors note — this video of the music by The Specials (one of my fav bands) will give you an idea of the times how people looked and danced. Disco music was ending and we listened to this in my gen.
The English Beat was another band I listened and danced to, all the time…