Shutter Eyes and Butterflies
I met him at the quaint corner café, the one with the bay window and the best spiced chaí latte I’d ever sampled. Punctuality is my middle name, so I wasn’t surprised when I walked in fifteen minutes early that Brendan had not yet arrived. I seated myself at the square table near the window, far from the earshot of the other café-goers. The set was complete with two winged back chairs that to the eye were hideously uncomfortable, but I had frequented enough to know that they were perfectly worn, making them the coziest seats in the house.
I opened my messenger bag and extracted the photographs. Brendan and I had been paired in our photography class. Our objective was to portray feelings and emotions in poses. I had agreed to bring a few of my photographs so we could talk about our interpretation. Before that moment, we hadn’t really conversed much; we would smile and say hello in passing but never held a full conversation. I always had a heartthrob for him, but always thought he was out of my league. After this experience, it might be safe to say he thought the same way about me.
He entered the coffee shop bundled in his pea coat and leather gloves, ordered a medium house blend, and tipped the cashier with his spare change. Recalling this, I hope he didn’t notice me watching his every move, seeing as I can recount most of his actions.
“So”, he smiled, approaching, “I see you have good taste in seating, too.” He punctuated his sentence with a wink as he slid out of his jacket and seated himself with a graceful yet manly slouch into the open chair.
It was impossible to hide the fact that I liked him. Try as I might, the coy smile always escaped my lips, and my eyelashes fluttered like the wings of a hummingbird. Brendan was impossible not to like: Perfectly shaped eyes, a chiseled face, sculpted body. Not to mention his personality was charming; almost so much that it made me wonder what was really going on behind those earthy eyes.
“I thought perhaps we could discuss the main focus of the project, decide what approach to take, you know?” I slid the photos across the table. “I have some ideas, but I’m not sure if they’re appropriate or not for our audience.”
He reached across the table, our fingers grazing as he drew the poses towards him.
“I know how your mind works. I’m sure they’re beautiful. Your ideas, I mean.” He trailed off, picking up his coffee to hide what looked to be a bit of embarrassment. His eyes flickered as he skimmed the pages. “Did you take these?”
“Really? They’re phenomenal. Your posing of the model is extraordinary. Take this one for example.” He reached across the table, gently embraced my hand and slid it to the photograph, resting his index finger on top of mine, pointing at the model’s leg. “Right here. Look at the extension she has. And the lighting… You didn’t light her face. I thought the point was to convey emotion and feelings?”
My lowered eyes flicked back up to meet with his. “Well, I thought maybe conveying emotion through body positioning, props, and clothing would be better. Everyone in class will be using a lot of makeup and taking mostly facial shots. I thought maybe if we didn’t light the face, we would have a unique approach. Like here, this photo,” I gestured, “What do you think it means?”
His eyes hadn’t left mine the entire time I had been talking. I have to admit, it was somewhat disarming. I handed him a photograph and watched him study it. I could see his eyes flitting over the model, observing her body positioning, how she was crouched in a corner, barefoot, only clothed in a man’s oversized white t-shirt, cigarette in hand. After a minute or so, he spoke.
“I’m not completely sure what it means, but you have great legs.”
My head snapped up so fast I kinked my neck.
He smiled slyly. “Your legs. You’re the model. It’s an amazing self portrait. Mustn’t have been easy to accomplish, but you seem to excel at multitasking.”
I could feel my face flush. I never would have thought he would be able to tell. When I had left my house, I grabbed a few pictures from the past months that I had taken. I included my self portrait, knowing my face was blacked out from the lighting, and thought nothing of showing him. My embarrassed mind-racing quieted when he spoke again.
“Why so shocked? I’m sure I’m not the only male from school who could identify you by those assets. And in answer to your question, I would say that you were conveying independence, an I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude. You’re crouch is different than other models. They look weak, whereas you look like you’re on the prowl, waiting to pounce. I like your idea of blanking the faces. I think it adds an air of mystery, although for you, you have that down pat.”
I could tell he was trying to change the subject. Whether that was because he had made his point or if he didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable, I’m not completely sure, but I was grateful. I’m naïve, but I could tell he was dropping hints at hitting on me. Where he was going with it was what I didn’t know. I cleared my throat.
“So when are you available to get together to take some shots?” My eyes darted as I spoke, always below his level of gaze. Fumbling with sweaty palms, my self portrait managed to slide out of my grasp and floated to the hardwood floor. Before I could even rise from my chair, Brendan had the photograph in his hand. He looked at it, eyes crinkling in the process.
“Depending on if I get to see more of this, I’m available whenever. By the way,” he said as he rocked out of his chair, “you have a small birthmark on the side of your knee.” He reached out his hand and rested it on my lower thigh, his thumb resting where my birthmark resided. With his other hand he placed the photograph on the table and tapped my right knee in the picture. “It’s M-shaped but turned on its side, like a lightning bolt. Electrifying,” he said with a laugh and slid his hand back to his pocket. I realized I had been subconsciously biting my lower lip, smiling coyly.
He gathered his coat and gloves, gave me an unreadable look, and left the café. I realized where I had my palms rested on the glass tabletop that moisture had condensed in beads. I wiped the evidence of nervousness away, grabbed the self portrait, and stuffed it in my bag. My mind felt like mush. What had just happened? My thoughts were cut short by my phone chiming a simple tune. I opened it and read, “Oh, I only need to know one thing: Your place or mine?”