I find the man I love waiting for me in the living room. Dressed up for an evening out. The opportunity is too tempting to pass by. I approach him ever so gently not to alarm him into awareness. The floor betrays me with its unsought creek. He sees me and appears unsuspectingly pleased by my atypical on-time arrival. His head turns slightly, then stops abruptly. Rendered catatonic when he sees my hands. His nostrils flare and his breath quickens as he maps his escape. Eruption ensues with his 10 fingers reaching up and wrapping around his face like gauze on an open wound. Then rising to his feet, he blindly sprints out of sight with lightning speed and impressive accuracy. I have been married to this man for 18 years. And for at least as many years, every attempt to capture his likeness on my phone is met with this same bizarre reaction.
Nights like these make me start to question how well I know him. Is he in the witness protection program? Is he planning to run for a political office and can’t afford a scandal? Maybe he was a famous child star and still suspects me as paparazzi? Is his face already commissioned for an exclusive modeling career and we chance financial ruin with one unapproved pic? Is he deep undercover and there is extraordinary risk of exposing him to the drug lords he is befriending? Or does he have another family somewhere and is avoiding all incriminating evidence that proves our union?
I set aside my pondering for the moment because I am losing precious seconds. My attempt at reason has lost its ability to persuade. All strategies must now be precisely employed. To the outsider, the scene resembles an African safari hunt as I begin my pursuit. Me and my phone and him on the run. He is clever prey. This will not be easy. His instincts are good, and he moves like water.
I survey the landscape, plotting out points of interest. But growling from my middle makes me acutely aware that the dinner hour has arrived. Walking then running, heat roaring through my blazer as I move through rooms systematically shrinking his habitation area with each pass. My watch announces I have just reached my exercise goal for the day and yet I press on. Makeup begins to degrade. Lipstick will need to be re-applied.
The sun sets and the house grows dark. My phone has a flashlight, but this will surely complicate things when I am able to take the shot. Quiet settles in. He has grown tired. Weaker. The only sounds now are slow footsteps and the occasional scrape of furniture being maneuvered. I make the decision to pause and wait for his inevitable collapse or submission. Either way, I win.
At last, he has been stationary for several minutes and I know all his hiding spots. I methodically eliminate all options until I stand facing a small corner of a dark closet. I can smell the sweat. I am close. Phone is ready. Face recognition executed. One quick glance assures me the camera is not on selfie mode. One hand free to subdue if necessary. The other in position, balancing with perfect weight distribution, thumb hovering exactly over the white circle. My arm is shaking but I will my muscles to obey. Will tonight be the night? The surrender of the coveted pose, standing still with no blurry pixels. The forced, but still present, smile. Victory is within reach.
Suddenly, he appears out of the shadows and demands a truce. He threatens dinner tardiness, cancelled reservations and cruelly reminds me of my aching, empty stomach. But I am too invested. I silently abandon all thoughts of perfection but remain committed to obtaining at least one frame that simultaneously collects all components of his face. He is in full view. Out in the open. Vulnerable. One slip of his concentration. One glance at the dog. One siren screaming past the window. This is all I need. I can’t give up now.
We stand for what seems like hours in this closet standoff. He is looking at me. Staring intensely at me with some strange expression I can’t place. Hope? He is waiting for something. What is he waiting for? Then it happens. The small drip of sweat soaked mascara drains into one eye. I blink and he maneuvers past me like a gazelle. Well played. Well played.
I am left behind confused by this newfound burst of energy. He was so close to breaking. Did he anticipate such a day with preemptive food and water stockpiled at the ready? I tell myself to investigate at sunrise. The low battery alert bursts onto the screen. My mind begins flashing, in remarkable detail, the various food images from the Yelp reviews I read a lifetime ago. The growling pierces the moment with screeching, dangerous decibels, I stumble and sway as my blood sugar plummets. In this wretched moment, I know, defeat has arrived.
The single click, as I press the button to close my screen, echoes for miles. Seconds later the lamp switch turns, flooding my eyes with the painful reminder of my failure. He stands before me perfectly groomed and looking handsome as ever. Not smug. Not arrogant. He just takes the deepest breath in the knowledge of this stay of execution. In one final desperate act, my weary mind futilely attempts to etch itself with as many details as possible. All the while knowing these memories will eventually fade and then disappear.
I long for a normal life. Where we stand together, arm and arm, smiling sweetly as the self-timer counts down to an adorable heirloom for our children and grandchildren. At night, I dream of photographs raining from the sky showcasing every candid, happy moment. We laugh and reminisce at the memories forever captured in time. But instead, my phone treasonously sends me unsolicited compilations set to sentimental music portraying thousands of portraits of the palm of his hand and half faces and chins. My only record of our passing years together is the gradual greying hair on the back of his head, month after month, year after year.
Successful marriages require a certain amount of compromise, and I am not willing to walk away based on this issue alone. He has proven to be a good partner in life, despite this one quirky flaw of his. However, in imagining our future of anniversary parties and celebrations of marital milestones, it appears slightly bleak as I suspect he will never be cured of this peculiar disorder. Looking beyond today, I see beautiful silver and gold frames filled with stock photos of unknown couples smiling back and video montages set to music made up entirely of my selfies appearing as if my marriage involves some imaginary partner. Cueing the tender playlist beginning with pictures of me and my dogs fading to sultry images of me on a cruise to the Bahamas transitioning to me eating ice cream at a local restaurant and ending with one still photo of me enjoying a romantic sunset alone. Resolute, it is but a small price to pay for a lifetime of memories that we can enjoy at least for a time until these mental photographs fade into the album of the unconsciousness never to be seen again by the naked eye.