Paul sat on the bus ride home. He half-heartedly poked at his phone screen while listening to a podcast on his headphones. A short buzz from the phone startled him. His eyes lit up. The moment he stepped off the bus he slid the phone into his pocket and scurried along the way. He reached his apartment complex with a wide grin on his face. There it was. The delivery carton sat expectantly on his doormat. As he entered his flat, he kicked aside a bunch of clothes that lay scattered on the floor. He set the box down on the kitchen table and, in a flurry, collected some dirty dishes off the table. He placed them on top of an already towering pile in the sink of his kitchenette. Then he sat down, removed his headphones and tore open the box. Yet another, shinier box came to light. He carefully lifted up the lid of the smaller box, producing a brand-new Leica camera. Paul smiled as he weighed it in his hands and brought it closer to his face, marveling at the exquisite craftsmanship. Its matte black surface had a smooth touch to it, the lens moved with remarkable ease. He peered through the viewfinder. His expression dropped. He set the camera back down on the table. Now what?
Paul shook his head in despair. Is this what his life had come to? He closed his eyes and remembered the smell of lavender in the air, the warm, afternoon sun on his skin as he watched Charlie chase butterflies through a field in the south of France, the two of them giggling like children. Their honeymoon had been the happiest week of Paul’s life. Unfortunately, it had also been the happiest week of their marriage. After that, began a slow and painful descent. As much as they tried to preserve that initial happiness, the downturn seemed inevitable. Once they got back to their everyday lives, their marriage became increasingly miserable. And by trying to hold on to that spark, Paul had suffocated their passion to the point that it was now nothing more than a distant dream of the past. A dream, which had happened to an entirely different person. The only thing he had left from that holiday was small a sachet of lavender, sitting somewhere in the back of his closet. A year after they’d gotten married, Charlie had filed for divorce. And even though Paul had seen it coming from a mile away, he was devastated. The most difficult part, was accepting that it had absolutely been his fault.
Paul glanced around the apartment. He couldn’t imagine how they had once both shared this tiny living space. It seemed to have shrunk since then. He owned more self-help books and musical instruments, than he could possibly practice. Among other things, Paul had managed to stuff a home brewing kit and an ice cream maker into a kitchen, barely wider than his wingspan. He put the camera back into the box and rose from his seat. Then he set the box down on the floor, as though, by making sure he tripped over it often enough, he would develop a genuine interest in photography. The place hadn’t been properly cleaned since the time he’d brought home a carpet steamer, which had only been collecting dust in the storage room ever since. The only thing that kept his place tidy was a robot vacuum, about as effective at cleaning carpeted floor as a broom. Paul was too embarrassed to call his cleaning lady. He needed to find another one, anyway, one that didn’t also clean Charlie’s new apartment.
Paul took his phone and started scrolling down a list of podcast recommendations. He stopped at an episode titled, How to find your true passion in life. He hurled the phone towards his unmade bed. “Screw finding true passion,” he muttered. A sense of disgust overcame him, as he stood there, surrounded by the remnants of a lifestyle that had spiraled out of control. He grabbed the storage room keys off a hook by the entrance and slammed the door on his way out. Paul returned, with a collection of boxes, which he moved into the flat one by one. Then he opened his laptop and created an inventory list of all the unnecessary things he’d bought in the last couple of years, ranging from sport equipment and obscure electronic gadgets to woodworking tools and stacks of origami paper. He’d even amassed a respectable stamp collection. He retrieved his phone, cleared up some space on the living room floor and started taking pictures of all his redundant possessions. He sat at his computer, creating listings for the next few hours. As he reached for the Leica camera he hesitated, then left it laying aside.
When Paul was finished, he moved everything he’d decided to sell into the storage room. He entered the flat again with the steam cleaner and a bucket of cleaning products in hand. By the time he was done restoring his apartment to its old shine it was pitch dark outside. He collapsed onto his small couch, exhausted, breathing a sigh of relief. A tear rolled down his cheek. He pondered what to do next. For the first time in a while he seemed to have a somewhat lucid mind. He couldn’t help but chuckle at the recollection that last month he’d spent several hours looking for the right equipment to start a podcast, only to realize in the end, he hadn’t the faintest idea what he wanted to talk about. Paul opened his laptop again, and started typing on the keyboard. He shot a glance at his calendar. His finger hovered over the mousepad for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and pushed to confirm his purchase of a one-way ticket to Nice. He looked up at the Leica camera, now sitting atop his nearly empty bookshelf.
Maybe one day he’ll find something worth capturing.