36: Keeping the Lens Cap On

36: Keeping the Lens Cap On

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Keeping the Lens Cap On

Happiness, not in another place but this place… not for another hour, but this hour.

~Walt Whitman

The waiter carefully placed two gold-rimmed plates, filled with linguine and panko-crusted chicken, on the table. “Enjoy your meal. Let me know if you need anything,” he said with a courteous smile as he scurried off to serve the other guests in the restaurant.

Raul lifted his fork to begin eating before I interrupted him, “Wait, can I take a picture for Instagram?”

He sighed, “Go ahead.” I took out my cell phone and took the picture for Instagram. Then, I spent the next thirty seconds deciding on which filter would bring out the best in my food and which clever hash tags to include in my post.

By the time our chocolate-drizzled ice cream dessert came around, I was getting ready to take my fifth picture of the night. Raul rolled his eyes. I quickly snuck in a shot of the dessert before asking him, “Sorry, am I bothering you by taking pictures?”

“I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little annoying,” he said hesitantly. “But it’s okay. I want you to do what makes you happy.”

I put away the phone, a little bit embarrassed, and decided to just enjoy our date. While we conversed over dessert, his statement lingered in the back of my mind. It wasn’t until I reached home that I really contemplated the issue. Did taking pictures of my life, to show 500 followers whom I barely spoke to, make me happy? Well, there was definitely that indescribable feeling I felt when my post amassed over twenty likes. It felt good; it felt like I won. But, what was the prize? I looked through the stream of photos that I had posted of Raul and me throughout our two-year relationship. Most were of our time spent at fine restaurants or the latest attractions near our city, and the brand name gifts we bought each other on holidays. I clicked on the profiles of other people I knew (or rather, was acquainted with) and noticed a similar trend.

It seemed like social media platforms were akin to the stages upon which spectacular plays are showcased. Everything grand is put on the stage as part of one big competition to see who has the best life. People are always trying to validate themselves and their relationships by posting pictures of their fancy vacations, their romantic dinners and the many lavish things that their paycheques can buy. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in the competition, even when you don’t realize it or intend to do so. It’s funny, the pictures are always so perfect but we’re all well aware that life isn’t. I wondered how many of these seemingly perfect pictures that flashed before my eyes coincided with an argument, or an annoyed bystander.

I called Raul that night, “I’m sorry about the pictures tonight. I had a good time but I think it could have been better if I just didn’t take any pictures,” I admitted to him.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s honestly okay,” he replied.

“No, it’s not. I’ve been thinking about it all night. I actually came up with a good idea.”

“Really? What’s this big idea?”

“How about for at least the next year, we ditch the fancy restaurants and going out to expensive places and just go on free dates? And I promise I’ll stop taking so many pictures. I’ll limit myself to just one for each date.”

“Wow, you’re really okay with doing that?”

“Yeah, I’m serious. I mean, who are we trying to impress? We should be having fun, not worrying about what others think, right?”

“You’re absolutely right. I think it’s a great idea. It’s not about where we go or what we do; it’s about being together and being happy. We’ll save a ton of money, too.”

“Yeah, I know! I can start making a list of date ideas if that’s okay and if I miss anything, we can add it in later.”

“Sounds good. I’m sure you’ll think of some exciting things.” He was right. As I put my pen to paper, I thought back to our previous conversations about his childhood, things he dreamt of doing and things we did before we were together.

I recalled him telling me that back in the Caribbean, where he grew up, they would fly handmade kites on Easter. This was meant to symbolize the Risen Lord. They would also tie prayers to their kites, hoping that the message would reach God. He told me about the different types of kites he made with his friends and how odd he found it when he moved to Canada that no one flew kites on Easter. Fly a kite, I wrote at the top of the page.

Another special memory was the day we first kissed. It was on a trail behind our high school football field. I stumbled to get past the boulders and twigs that were lying on the ground. He had held my waist gently to make sure that I didn’t fall. We finally made it to a log that was stable enough to sit on. I saw him staring at me out of the corner of my eye but I was too nervous to look back so I stared at the clouds slowly drifting across the sky.

“It’s so pretty here,” I said.

“I really like you,” he said, completely ignoring my attempt at small talk, “You’re so different from all the other girls here. It sounds lame, but it’s true. Your face isn’t caked with make-up, you care about your future and you walk around like you don’t care what people think of you. More girls need to be like you.”

I looked at him and smiled. “Thank you,” and it just happened. There were no fireworks but there was the sound of nature all around us. Everything about that moment felt natural.

I added “go hiking” to the list. By the end of the night, I had everything from playing board games to building a blanket fort on the list. After he approved every item on the list and added a few more, we began scheduling our first new-style date.

“The first time I saw you, you were looking at the paintings in the showcase near the art classes. So, I think we should do something artistic. How about painting a picture together?” he asked.

“Sure, that sounds great. I’ll come to your house on Friday.”

When I entered his garage that Friday, there were paintbrushes, bottles of paint and a large canvas laid out on one of those white, fold-up picnic tables.

“Ready?” he smiled.

“Of course, this looks amazing!”

We sat down and began painting a beautiful landscape together. Not only was it liberating to release our emotions on a canvas through our brushstrokes and choice of colours, but there was something special about allowing our creativity to flow, having fun together and being far from the world’s eyes.

~Selena Singh

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