Friday, July 23, 2010


It began in the autumn of 2007. I was fifteen years old, and had just started taking photography courses at FIU through the Dual Enrollment program. I was excited; I would meet people, make friends, and do a tremendous amount of learning. Photography I was indeed a great course. Being homeschooled for most of my life, it was refreshing to sit in a room full of people who shared a common interest with me and who were willing to talk to me. Within the booming voice of my professor, one person on the first day of class immediately caught my eye. She was a pretty little thing; short, brown, wavy hair; green eyes, freckles, the works. She was sitting near the back of the class, next to another homeschooler whom I had previously known from various home school meetings and get-togethers.

I discovered that her name was Brianne, and I can’t recall how I even found that out. I know I don’t remember asking her; I probably read the class role or looked at the list of reservations for the photographic enlargers that she had signed. I learned by listening to conversations with her and other classmates that she was also homeschooled, and was taking virtual school classes just like me. She was barraged with more questions, and I also found out about her love for music, art, and writing, and that she was 17 years old.

I recall working in the darkroom with her alone. It was a prime opportunity for me to talk to her, but I rarely said anything besides the occasional compliment about one of her adornments. She always had a great eye and flair for dress, and looked sharp even when she was printing pictures with chemicals that beg to stain clothes. There’s no denying that I had built a crush on her, and I realize now that I should have talked about something instead of either listening to music with my headphones on or maintaining an awkward silence.

I usually remember student work, but I remember none of the images she printed. Ironically, I remember one quite terrible image that her home school friend Candice took for one critique; a so-called “pan” of a port-o-potty. Nevertheless, we both worked on printing throughout the semester and finished our projects. After the class ended, seeing her in the darkroom was no longer a routine. We did though occasionally stumble into each other & converse, and on one occasion I ended up getting her MySpace address. I was excited even about that, and I checked the site constantly until she accepted my friend request. But even then when I obtained the address, while she was laughing and talking with another friend, I got the feeling that I was just another face within the brood of classmates she worked with over the years. She continued to peruse photography, but she studied digital while I continued to work with film. I never took another class with her again.

Thanks to the fact that we were MySpace friends, we started talking over the site often. Being bolder on the internet, I sent her little, random, thoughtful comments on her page in hopes of sparking a real conversation. I did this for very nearly a year.

Eventually, I told her about a rather forbidding nightmare I had about her the night before. In it, I was drowning in a lake of dark cyan water while she smiled and threw fish food at me from a dock above. In my own words from the message, “I was half-thinking that you were going to help me in some way, but instead you made a cryptic gesture and began to throw fish food at me while grinning maliciously. Meanwhile, I’m painfully drowning, watching the fish pellets sink around me, and I began to black out.”

She responded that she didn’t think I looked too much like a fish, and apologized for haunting my dreams. From that came the conversation I was hoping for; stuff about dreams, philosophy, art, music, and life. Almost every night, I would respond to her messages on my iPod lying on my bed at a very late hour, meticulously composing each sentence. By the time I was done writing, I had a textbook-sized message, a third of my iPod’s battery left, and hours of sleep lost. Her replies, in contrast, were mostly simple and short, but intelligent and understanding. They came promptly every morning after my late night writing at about 9AM. I always looked forward to this when I woke up, and it gave me much to think about for the rest of the day.

After about two months of this, I finally had the guts to ask her to shoot with me, at a high-school construction site very near the university campus. This would fulfill the photographic project I was working on at the time and loved; industrial areas. It would also let me talk to her in person and shoot with another photographer instead of having my mother with me like usual on shoots. I went over to the construction site the night before to scope it out and make sure it was relatively safe. The problem, I found, was that it was too safe.

Two uniformed cops were circling the building 24/7, and one promptly told me to scram as I approached the gate. I told her about it, and we tried to make plans to shoot at nearby areas. Nothing came to be. By the time we had decided on a date, she happened to then remember that her mother’s birthday was on that day. I finally just gave up.

After that, I had started browsing 4chan more often in the evenings, and messaged her less and less. Some time had passed, and I started asking again if we could get together. She said that she would be at an outdoor jazz concert at the MOCA Museum and said I could meet her there. Lovely.

I got there well dressed and five minutes late. The snares and horns were blaring and everyone seemed to be drinking red wine. I wish I had some. I searched for her, but it was difficult in the large crowd. I didn’t have her phone number so I couldn’t call. I just kept looking, and progressively wondered if she had even showed up. I couldn’t even enjoy the music.

After looking for three quarters of an hour, I found her finally. She was near the center of the audience with her dad, sitting under a tree with him. I sat next to her, and said “I finally found you”. She responded, but I couldn’t hear her over the music. I sat and listened; the performance was actually quite good. Meanwhile, she was intent on making small, incomprehensible drawings in her journal-sized notebook, and she was totally immersed in her work.

After the second song, she and her father nodded at each other. To my surprise, they both stood up, and told me they were leaving. They said their goodbyes and quickly disappeared through the crowd and into the parking lot. I joined my mother, who was sitting on a picnic blanket farther away from the seats and chairs, and we listened to the last songs together.

I felt cold from that night for several days after, and I sent her a kind email emphasizing my frustration about it. I had also bought up some other things I wanted to discuss. She replied, but avoided any say about anything that happened that night.

After that incident, I hardly talked to her at all. I asked to shoot with her a few more times but apparently her college schedule forbade it. She told me she was taking six classes that semester. Later still, I told her that I wanted to write her a hand-written letter. She responded, “Why?”, and I never replied. I figured my time would be better spent writing a long-overdue letter to my auntie. Much later on, she suddenly deleted her MySpace profile, thus relieving me of the messages we shared and the last connection I had with her.

Since then, I have never had as close of a friend anywhere near my age. Those I’ve met at my more recent classes have been faceless and uninteresting. I’ll probably have to shuffle through many other faceless classmates before I fine another who I can trust, love, listen to, and be listened to, during all of my best and darkest times.