She captures it perfectly, the split second her best friend laughs in the middle of telling a story, about some guy, who did something, to someone. The curve of her lips and the way the skin around her eyes bunched like the shoulders shaking in delight.
“Were you even listening?” Marceline asks in the middle of catching her breathe “I was just getting to the best part Leia.”
Leia sets the camera down, gently, onto the coffee table as she shakes her head at her.
“Sorry,” she says looking at her friend, with a warmth saved just for her “it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you laugh like that.”
Leia picks up her coffee mug, letting the porcelain warm her frigid fingers, as the dainty soul across her shrugs the rest of the story off her head.
“Hmm, well I don’t know what you mean,” she picks up her iced tea, twirling the straw before taking a small sip “I always laugh when I tell you about anything really.”
“Not in that way, no.” she itches to pick the camera up again, the leather fit to mold the groves that line her hands
“Whatever you say, Leia, whatever you say” she laughs a bit.
Leia’s hands reach for the camera again, settling it above her face and in that very second, with the rest of her world blacked out only to the tiny square, framed just at Marceline’s face, she and her best friend were the only people on this earth. The viewer and the viewed. A watcher and the muse. Leia pressed the button with a satisfying click.
She wouldn’t know until later her hand shook slightly from the cold that settled across the city, that even in that little café it still seeped its way into the store whenever another would look for refuge. And when she’d pull that picture from the water, hold it up to her eyes she would click her tongue and notice the blur around her muse, a mistake of course and she’d let it up to dry anyways. A blurry photograph dangling in a small room of red, to remind her of the time her friend laughed about a guy who laughed about a girl who did this and that.
Leia would never remember Marceline’s odd stories, after all, what was there to remember about something so trivial? But for now she doesn’t know this, and sips her coffee to realize it’s already gone cold.
“I have to get back to my dorm,” Marceline says, sipping the last of her drink “drop me off?” Not really a question more of an assurity.
“Yeah, of course” Leia gathers her coat, slugging it around her small figure, making sure to rub her hands against the thick wool for security.
The tables around them don’t even bat an eye at her, a few glances land on Marceline of course, every movement she makes like a calculated dance. From the way she pulls her hair free from under her scarf, to the nod she directed toward the entrance. The guy walking into the café even stepped aside to let her pass, she smiles in thanks and something in his face changes.
Leia regrets putting the camera in it’s bag again, she would’ve called that photo ‘A maybe waiting to happen.’
She follows her friend onto the bustling side walk. Letting the sudden cold dull the ache in her chest. ‘What for’ she wonders. She wonders about a lot of things, something she’s made more and more of an effort to call out when she does. She wonders about how people laugh at the smallest things ,how Marceline laughs at the smallest things. She wonders why people huddle instead of stand alone, like in any situation she’ll always find two heads glued together, or, one swiveling their head to find the other. Her head has swung alone, no body to bring closer to hers, no mind to touch with hers.
Although ironically the two have always walked together, pairs tied by the waist ever since they met senior year of high school. It was an accident at first and sooner or later the Hello's and Hi’s in the hallways, led to meeting up every weekend and hanging lights under thick blankets to look like stars of wire, which shone their iridescent light as the girls laughed their worries away.
Something of an accident turned into habit.
The two habits wishing they were anywhere but there.
“So how’s your portfolio going?” Marceline asks, stopping to look both ways before crossing the road.
“It’s going pretty well,” Leia watches her words turn into fog. “I still need to fill up this months content though.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Marceline reaches for her arm, tucking it between hers “I know you’re work will be seen and worshiped at some point.”
At some point.
Not right now, but at some point. A mercy, a truth.
“Yeah, I don’t know about the worship part.” They head left, towards the stone walkway with bare trees angled towards the sky. “But I’ve been waiting for galleries to respond back, guess I just have to wait a little more. Try something different to show.”
Marceline doesn’t say anything to this, having heard the same answer the last time they met up. And the last time before, and the last.
“Mhm” is all she ends up saying.
Leia spots the gates to Marceline’s university, the streets that mingled will all sorts of people now defined down to the students that attended. One could always distinguish them as different from the rest, with darker bags under their eyes and a rashness that followed them by the foot.
Marceline unhooks her arm from Leia’s.
“Don’t stress over it k’?” she rubs her shoulders, the pink settling onto her nose “If you ever need a change of scenery, you know I’m always here right?”
“Yeah of course.” She hugs her “I know.”
Marceline lets go and heads her way to the gates, stopping to turn and wave her final goodbye, before being lost in the crowd once more. Leia stays for a while, her eyes glaze over as she looks at all the people around her one by one, slowly raking over their features with an eye trained to spot the perfect ratio. The perfect shot. She brushes her hand over the strap of the bag on her shoulder, a nervous habit that allows her to re-focus and walk the opposite way to the station.
Leia was never one to stay in one place for too long, afraid of what she might miss in all the others. In all places she’s visited, in all photographs she’s captured, one never looked the same as the other; she prides herself in that. From the way a corner juts across the page, to the way the light hits metal under certain time of the day. She looks for it all but forgets about it once she’s done. She’s never lingered, never strayed, and because of that she finds herself heading to her 7th floor apartment, all alone.
Even sitting on the metro, bodies pressed against her she manages to not acknowledge them at all. The sweat on a woman’s forehead she sees.
The laugh coming from the group with hair dyed in colors like the neon lights of the bar she visits, the paint peeling off the ceiling of the car she sees and sees and sees. But she is blind to it. To the deeper connection, beyond it’s materialistic character.
“It’s murder” she said once, in the comforts of whiskey and a late night.
“What is?” he replied, half asleep and bare under her sheets.
“The way I want to swallow the world,” She whispered to his back, relishing the slant of moonlight on his skin. “And once I’m done, I leave the rest discarded, I keep the ones I like and get rid of the rest. I don’t know why I do it really, I just don’t remember a time when I didn’t.”
“Hmm.” he breathed more than spoke.
“Don’t you think?” she said.
“I think you’re drunk and I’m tired.”
“I think I’ve killed you too,” she gently brushed her nails on the nape of his hair “in the smallest ways of course, from tonight and onward you will be dead.”
“How so,” he whispered back, the rest of the conversation already slipping from his mind “I’m not someone that’s left to rot so easily, you can’t get rid of something by ignoring it’s there in the first place.”
“Oh but I can,” she replied “it exists today, right now, in this very moment but once it’s captured once it’s stripped down to it’s best version the rest of it decays and I forget.”
“Forget what?” He questioned, the words slurring. “That it was there in the first place? Or what it was like before you got to it?”
“Hmm,” she contemplated, letting her eyes shut “both I think.”
“Then you are a murderer.” he turned to face her, his eyes glazed with something hot and foggy.
“And what about it?” she breathed on his face.
“It’s the only way you’ll end up dying too.”
“I can’t be my own end.” She scoffed, looking away from his gaze.
“And that’s where you’re wrong my love, you’ve already ended.”
She cried that night. Less of a sob more of a single tear, that fell slowly until it got soaked up by the pillow under her. The man in front of her fell asleep.
Shaking the memory, she snaps back to the present and unlocks her apartment door. She laughs a little, as she finds him sprawled on the couch.
‘Speak of the devil.’
“Hey,” he rises “you’re home late.”
He places a kiss on her forehead before grabbing the bag around her shoulder, placing it on the counter.
“I didn’t know you’d be here” she unravels the scarf around her neck “if you would’ve called I’d come earlier.”
“It’s all good, I didn’t think you would even if I did” he helps her take her jacket off.
“Okay.” is all she says.
Bottles get emptied and so does the clock, minutes stream by and his touches become kisses become hugs become love. Leia closes her eyes when he does and kisses him back when he does, but in her head she is away.
For she has already seen his bare chest, she’s already heard her name on his lips, and when their bodies lie tired on her couch once more, their limbs intertwined in a messy unraveling, she is still away.
“Look at me.” he says to her hair.
Leia turns to face him, placing her hands on him until she could feel the steady heartbeat echo into her palms. She wonders how they look right now, from above maybe even up close, how her hair is tangled and how the blinds make lines of white show his green eyes. The green eyes that turned cloudy and grey.
“You can’t even do that.” He scoffs, pulling her hands away before sitting up.
“Sorry.” She says, grabbing a stray shirt and pulling it over her head.
“You know what’s the problem with you?” he turns with something like pity on his face.
“It’s that you grow tired, of every thing every one else would starve for. You talk about greed and you talk about all the ways you wished you could capture things on your stupid camera.” There’s a breaking in his voice, and she still sits on the couch with nothing to say.
“Capture this then,” he reaches for the door “capture the way I wished I could love you and how you’ve already killed me.”
“I couldn’t.” She stands up to face him. It falls inside her, something withers again.
“And why is that Leia,” he pleads “why can’t you see I bleed?”
Something gets cut, a line she thinks, a line that connects him with her and him with everyone else and everyone else with each other. She sees them, but she is not one of them.
She should say “Because I bleed too.” But it’s already gone dramatic and she didn’t want to add to it.
“Because I’ve never had someone hurt for me.”
“Because I don’t deserve you ,I don’t.”
“Because I need more of you to see, I need you to stay.”
“Because I’ve already forgotten about you.” she says.
He slams the door on her face.
She stands there for a while, taking in the shake on her hands and how the pressure behind her eyes beg to fall out, to crease her skin and send herself sprawled on the floor.
It’s what she’s seen happen before, to others. But she does not weep. Does not reach out for her name to be said in that voice again, she simply falls to the floor, rests her head on the cold wood and wishes she had bought something to eat with her coffee.