by: Amanda Owens
It was my favorite shirt, slightly childish, perhaps, with it’s frills and pastel designs, but I felt pretty. I remember sitting on a bench outside the cafeteria in the sun with all my besties, laughing. Normal high school antics and jokes were had. Candid shots of us goofing off, sitting on the table, those trendy shots of half of our faces with open mouths and gleaming teeth. I remember the sun slanting through the beams overhead being brighter, the trees being green (instead of a tired, Texan-heat inspired brown), laughter booming rather than merely pittering, and little rules to confine our big personalities. I barely remember how alien the sticky nodes of the cardiac monitor pressing on my skin underneath my shirt (later leaving little circles of leftover adhesive as if I placed six quarter-sized bandages all over my torso), the monitor clipped to my hip, somewhat visible under the hem of my favorite shirt.
It wasn’t my first exposure to mortality. Coming from rural Smalltown, Texas, we buried more than one child–though I didn’t think of us as kids then–the lesson was hard to miss: people die. Suicide, car wreck, accidents on the farm–we teens were no strangers to our friends disappearing. Then, I was wondering that about myself as my heart raced, feeling faint, visiting the hospital my senior year of high school. My senior year. This wasn’t the plan for my senior year.
Fast forward to another funeral. Not the first wake and not the last, nor the first man I ever loved, or the last, but the man that got down on one knee and held up that diamond ring, even as I had been mentally planning how to leave him. Fast forward to the funeral slideshow of his red cheeks, holding red solo cups, party shots and party photos that outnumbered our one professional engagement pose and baby pictures. Fast forward to his grandfather–a proud, strong Texan man–crying, weeping, holding my hand, saying, “I didn’t know he had a drinking problem; now I know why you left.” and me wanting to protest that it wasn’t the drinking I couldn’t handle, but the abuse. Yet, instead I try to convince his family that he quit drinking; the proof in photo after photo practically screaming that I was a liar.
So I take photos. Of everyone, doing everything, everywhere. Grocery store? Sure. In an elevator, by a bathroom mirror, or walking a dog? You bet. Candid, posed, food halfway to a mouth, walking away, hands in front of faces… all of it. It’s difficult to stop, yet at one time even harder to start. I’m known to be the friend with the camera and that’s okay. I’d rather be annoying then have to explain why I or you or we only exist at parties. There’s ups and downs in life; what better way to reflect that then with one frame of a thousand words?
Amanda Owens is a summer away from starting grad school at DePaul University. She’s struggling to discover reality in a society that hides behind a curtain of falsified perfection, by being a loud advocate for survivors of sexual assault, being queer and then writing about it, and volunteering for her community. You can always read more of her poetry and politics at http://wagingwarwithwords.wordpress.com.