[Author’s Note: Originally written October 2014]
Lying on the bench she looked at him lazily, with half open eyes. Her shoulder length brown hair fell around her face, framing it. The light hit her hair, casting the right side of her face in a pale yellow light. Like a classical painting she lay there calm and passive. Her arms rested on her stomach, pressing gently on the black fabric of her shirt. Her shirt hung off her shoulders by thin straps. The fabric of the shirt tightly wrapped around her lithe frame. Her denim shorts stopped on her thighs, clinging tight to her skin. He imagined her, standing in front of the mirror admiring her excellent clothing choice for a night of partying, Her simple black bag, lay under her arms. He smiled at her. She smiled back. He didn’t know what to do then. He grabbed his camera and took a picture, preserving her smile forever. He looked at it, the focus of the photo was completely on her. The background of patrons became a blur. This was a perfect moment caught on film. The brown haired girl with the subtle smile. Like a tipsy modern Mona Lisa. She stretched out a finger and told him to come closer. He wasn’t used to being involved. He was a silent observer. That’s why he had the camera. He’d snap a picture of the band, or of a group of friends who ask him to. He documented. He was the camera, wholly and completely. Now he was being asked to join the world.
He sat next to the girl. She smiled at him sleepily.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
Well, time to get involved.
“Cameron,” he said plainly.
She tried his name on her tongue. He decided he liked the sound of his name when she said it.
“Cameron. The boy with the camera” she stumbled through the words like her tongue was just waking up “Can I see the picture you took of me?”
Was he ready to show her the picture? It was a picture of her, but the picture felt like it belonged to him. This was his piece of her, to keep. What harm would showing her do? As long as she didn’t delete it.
“Sure, just don’t delete it if you don’t like it,” he told her.
He pressed the playback button as she sat up, reeling a bit, getting used to seeing the world straight for a second. They huddled close. He felt her warmth fight the chill of the night air. This moment was better than the moment he had just captured, yet this would never be documented. This was life, no camera to capture this instant. Then she surprised him by pulling out her phone.
“Smile,” she said, and the picture was taken.
She took out the phone and showed him the image. The high angle eliminated the horrible possibility of waddle. The world was bright amber in the picture. Her bright green eyes capturing the camera’s attention and making it pay attention. Her softly red lips smiled at the camera, betraying a hint of white teeth. He, on the other hand, looked sickly pale, his gelled brown hair looking less like a fifties greaser, and more like he had just stepped out of the shower. His brown eyes faded into the background of amber light. He could see the pimples on his cheeks, many and large, insistently holding on despite puberty being behind him. In contrast, her face was masked in a light coating of foundation that gave her a sundried complexion. He hated how he looked in her photo but he didn’t say anything. She had caught his moment. He was happy for her. She put the phone away in her pocket and leaned against his shoulder.
“You’re comfy Cameron,” she said.
“I still don’t know your name” he admitted.
“I’m Sophie,” she told him “Sophie Snow”
He was doomed now. She was too perfect, and she had an alliterative name. Sophie Snow didn’t feel real. Too far above him, too kind and yet she demanded his attention. He wasn’t much. That’s what he wanted to say. Be a poet and weave her a metaphor out his mouth.
“Sophie Snow. Nice name” is what he said instead.
It was a nice name.
“Thanks. I got it from my parents” she snarked.
Picturing Sophie’s parents was odd. The Snows. Father: Sam. Mother: Sandra. He imagined them to be refined and wealthy. Her father working at a bank, sitting at the dining table with the morning paper on Sundays. Her mother would work as a university lecturer with a PhD. Science or something like that, at one of those big expensive universities. This was how he saw Sophie’s home life. Perfect and untarnished. Around him, he started to realise the crowds were moving from the grounds. The bands must have finished. He glanced at his watch. 2 am.
“Well Sophie Snow, we’d better get you home”
Sophie had caught public transport into the city centre where the festival was. Cameron had driven. He had lucked out with a decent parking space around the corner from the grounds. He held Sophie as they walked. He never wanted that feeling to end. Her body clutching to him, warm and needing him. As he drove his run-down second-hand sedan she texted her friends telling them that she’d met this guy who offered a lift home. She assured them that everything was fine. He turned on the radio, in came the sounds of songs that were probably being played by some 20-year-old intern picking some stuff for the few souls who listened at this hour, music that just sat in the background.
“So what do you do Sophie?” he asked her.
“Oh, I’m at Uni. Majoring in history” she answered off the cuff.
That was all they said for the rest of the trip. He pulled up outside her place in the suburbs. It wasn’t as well-to-do as he imagined. No white picket fences in this part of the city. Instead, it was burnt orange brick, with white metal fencing. It looked like a share house.
“Do you want to me to walk you to your door?” he asked.
What happened after all this? He had no clue, except what he’d seen in movies. She nodded and he got out and walked her to her door, cherishing every second. Before the door, she stopped and hugged him, long and close. The press of her body against his felt good. After the hug, she reached into her handbag and brought out a blue pen. She grabbed his hand and wrote on it. He looked at it in the faded light of the new moon. Her name, and numbers underneath. Holy shit. Sophie Snow’s phone number. He smiled.
“This is far as you go tonight Cam the Camera Man, but give me a call sometime. We’ll hang out” she smiled and headed inside.
So that was what happened when you got involved.
Three Months Later
Sophie Snow is in a relationship. The white box hung in his news feed with its small blue love heart hanging above the words. The words made his stomach drop. Sophie Snow was in a relationship and it wasn’t with him. Who was this other guy anyway? Where was he when Sophie was drunk at the music festival? Instead, it fell to Cam the Camera Man to become involved. Cam the Camera Man, that was what she had called him. Had that night meant nothing, had he read too much into it? No, he was sure. That night, those moments were real, captured on his camera, and her phone. He looked at the photo again, there was something there he was sure of it. The picture was proof that she had looked at him with desire at one point. He decided that he had to talk to Sophie, in person. This guy would disappear soon enough, leaving Sophie needing a shoulder to cry on. His shoulder.
He had been wrong. Two months, two long months of Sophie spending time with her new partner. Also, the he wasn’t a he. Sophie was dating a girl. Apparently, Sophie was bisexual. But the relationship fizzled out and finally it was his chance. Sophie came over after the break-up. He expected tears but there were none. Life went on as usual. He decided to broach the subject while they were playing his Xbox.
“So you’re single again” he began.
“What’s your point?” she asked, not taking her eyes off the game.
“Just wondered if you were looking for someone” he stated.
“Not really. Want to stay single for a while you know. Relationships can be hard work, especially early on. I’m not ready for any of that” she admitted.
Cam was taken aback by this, but not undeterred.
“You could also try with somebody you already know, like me” he confessed.
This was it. His moment. The sequel to the music festival moment. He noticed that now she had dropped her controller. She turned to him.
“I thought we were friends Cam,” she said.
“We are…” he started.
“Then I beg you. Don’t do the shitty thing you’re about to do” she begged.
“Do what? I just want you to give me a chance” he begged in return.
She was freaking out now, strutting the room, her forehead lined.
“Cam, we’re just friends. We will never be anything more. You might think I’m leading you on; yes I flirted with you a little when I was drunk but I expected you to do something in the next few days. Christ Cam, you’re kind of cute. But you’re just a watcher. A person is not a lens, and I’m not a fucking object to observe! I’m a person!” she yelled exasperatedly. “If this friendship is just a pretence to get into my pants, I’m out.”
She grabbed her things and walked out the door. He tried calling to patch things up but she had changed her number. He went to her house but her housemates wouldn’t let him see her. The next time he would see Sophie that would be much older, and he would be full of regret for a lived not fully lived.