She was an artist in the general sense. More specifically she was a photographer, or at least that’s what she thought of herself. She liked taking pictures with friends when they made wild faces, at school when she thought the classroom had a certain aesthetic, in the park when the grass felt cool under her feet. She liked the limits of the photo after it game out the other side. It gave her a sense of perspective on things she couldn’t ever fully appreciate. She liked the solidity that it gave her, that these things did exist and there was objective proof to this. She liked the feeling she got as she snapped each photograph, that what she was doing might someday be appreciate by someone else and they would know her. She liked photography. She then also liked to organize the photos into albums in neat symmetrical patterns in a strictly chronological order. She liked to get out her clear blue ruler and measure the exact number of half-inches in from the sides in order to align the four photos on each page in the perfect place. She enjoyed the patience and diligence that went into this work and the feeling of self-accomplishment that followed suit. She enjoyed pouring hours into these albums, adding captions and borders and pages of more photos. She enjoyed doing them when there were quiet moments alone, or when there were quiet moments in class, or when there were quiet moments at the park. She loved photography.
He hated her for her love. He only had one class with her maybe five times a week for maybe an hour and a half. Unless either was sick or he skipped, then it was slightly less. But he hated her for those few hours. He would watch her from across the room mindlessly measuring and adjusting and re-measuring and pasting her photographs into her albums as their teacher hopelessly taught ethics. He hated the way she would only look down at her albums and photos, not blinking for minutes at a time. He hated her self-absorption and the way her tongue would sometimes creep out from beneath her lips as she slowly pasted down a corner. He also hated how no one else hated her as much as he did. How no one could notice the quiet girl slowly pasting photographs into an album until the bell would ring day after day infuriated him. Then once in a while his hate would spill into the evenings and ruin his cigarettes. Then sometimes his hate would spill over into the weekends and ruin his nights. And even sometimes after that his hate would come up as he had sex or when he masturbated or when he day dreamed. Some days after school when he would light up his cigarette and breathe it in apprehensively he would say to no one in specific, “I’m gonna burn that fucker’s photos some day.”
And then one cool October day he did. It was more of a sudden impulse than anything planned or thought out. She was sitting on a bench outside the school taking a photo of the trees becoming vibrantly bare when he grabbed her album. He flipped it open to a day that featured a photograph of her painted toe nails in the almost green grass in the sunshine, a merry-go-round with two young children smiling on it, a sunset intensified by deadly fires of the west, and the girl with an empty smile standing next to some friends with empty eyes. His eyes flared with anger and then his lighter flared with butane and then the album flared with flames.
She didn’t put up a fight, she didn’t protest or even stand up, she hardly even blinked. She met his eyes and held them for a long while without really registering anything or sending any real message. He became wild at her indifference and began cursing loudly and tearing out pages of the album. The acrid smell of burning chemicals hurt his eyes and nostrils and served as a motivation to keep going. He wanted her to feel something, to hurt her badly, he wanted grab hard onto her cheeks and drive his thumbs hard into her eye sockets. But she just stared, and then after a while a cool October breeze put out the little flames. The girl took out her camera, snapped a photo, and walked away.
She was an artist in the general sense.