Warning: some profanity
There is magic in capturing a moment forever. It can live outside and independent of the individual memory. Yet, those reminders often end up being housed and stored away within books, secured by cellophane pages, and trimmed in ribbon and lace.
Because of what happened, we never had a ceremony making promises to one another before our friends and the Lord. We vowed to each other that our relationship was a celebration in itself; we didn't need the "show" to validate our love.
The moments I have shared with my beloved are only in my memory. She never wanted to pose for a photo again, after that day.
Wedding favors are all the rage, and if you are going to have a wedding, it's best to have some kind of gift for your guests to remember your special day. Connor and Annabelle, a photo of the two holding hands, walking towards the camera, gazing and smiling at one another, decorated the front of a CD holding a collection of their favorite songs. Of course, the wedding favor also provided the music during the reception dinner. The final song was to be their first dance.
Lights dimmed. At center stage, a bright spotlight illuminated Annabelle in all her sequined glory. This was all choreographed, of course. To avoid a startling use of the flash, I snapped three quick photos, doing my best to capture an iconic moment with little disruption. Immediately, I readjusted for the next scene in the choreographed routine. When Louis Armstrong started singing about the trees, a second spotlight shined on the foyer entry. On queue with the music, I took a couple shots quickly with the flash. Following the part about the trees is when Louis sings about roses. Connor was to be standing in the entryway, holding a small bouquet, regally approach the bride, and a beautiful waltz would ensue. Mournfully elegant and poetic; those roses - those damned roses. Connor left them placed on a pillar at the entry. He might've left Annabelle the flowers, but all she could feel were the thorns.
Louis didn't know he should stop; he continued to sing about the sky and clouds and a dark night, which this moment was for Annabelle.
It was certainly time for a rainbow to show up during this unannounced storm. Without hesitation, I found myself walking towards Annabelle, during all the part about skies and clouds and dark nights, then took her waist with my left hand, and while extending my right, she instinctively interlaced her fingers with mine. We began to waltz. Rotating and spinning, I looked in her eyes. I didn't smile, and I didn't frown. This was a serious moment. Someone just died, or at least a part of them. It was Annabelle's heart, and this dance was me giving her CPR. She needed to survive this. We can't let Connor win I thought to myself as we spun across the dance floor. Annabelle's eyes were fixed on mine the whole time. Disbelief combined with gratefulness combined with terror filled her gaze, like when you lose your balance and feel like you're falling off the edge of a cliff. I held her waist tighter to keep her here, with me. Keep her from falling off the cliff.
Incredulous, the D.J. didn't know what to do but to stick with the script. It was strange, considering the current circumstances, but somehow it all worked that night. The next tune in the choreographed line up quickly came to life.
"All you pretty young thangs, join this happy couple on the dance floor and get your sexy moonwalk on!"
Funky vibes filled the air. Annabelle's cousin brought her a shot of God-knows-what to the dance floor, shouting over the music, "You're right where you need to be, girl! Everything's gonna be just fine!"
Annabelle tilted her head back, taking in the much needed medicine. Liquid courage coursed through her. With a sideways smile, she looked at me, her eyes saying, "f#@% it! It's fun time!" I couldn't agree more. We danced all night. The cake would've been untouched if it weren't for Annabelle's Aunt Geisla in her apron (yes, she wore her finest apron to the wedding) cutting the cake, fueling hyper children and tipsy guests needing a sugar fix.
After that event I had to purchase all new camera equipment. Following our trip to Funky Town, our only hydration consisted of the shots of God-knows-what and cheap white wine. It was worth it.
Moving in together the following week, we perfected the art of living in sin right from the start. Yet as I accuse our moral character, sometimes I wonder, what's more sinful? Being in a loving relationship or walking out on your freshly made vows? We never talk about him, ever, but since I'm telling this story to you, I can say his name. Connor, I saw him a few months later. Of all places, you guessed it, at a wedding. Not his! No. Standing at the bar with his plus one, a sharply dressed, attractive young man. I knew they were together because I remember seeing that guy at Connor and Annabelle's wedding. He sat in the back row, on the groom's side. Connor saw me too, of course. I was the photographer, how could you miss me? The couple danced one fast dance then promptly left. Bet he was concerned I was finally going to get that photo of him, but that wasn't in the choreography for this event. He was in the clear.
Over 15 years have passed since that night full of heartache and new beginnings.
I still photograph weddings. Annabelle says she doesn't mind. "It's your job," she says, matter of factly. Consequently, we never discuss my work days.
Others still seem to want to try, try to stop time. I help them. Displayed memories trapped on living room walls, pressed in scrapbooks, the excess collections gathered in "to be sorted one day" shoeboxes.
Annabelle feels bad for not wanting to capture our memories together. My original promise to her was clear and simple. We would not focus on the past, instead we cherish the present. The night of our first dance, vowing to hold her hand and her heart, I promised I would never leave her side - from this day forward.