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It was quite easy, actually insultingly easily, to fade into the crowd. Under ordinary circumstances it would have been considered an impressive feat, his camera being an obtrusive and unwelcome guest at their festivities. But the progress through the throng of bodies was still slow, requiring effort—he found people turned to statues when they were transfixed. When he finally made his way to the front of the crowd, he stared into the face of the child prodigy who held the most powerful elite in the palm of her hand, and snapped the first of many shots through the protective lens of his comfortably-priced camera.
Her head tilted, a minute reaction to the shifting of the violin, her fingers never ceasing to pluck the strings. He heard what the rest of them heard—a sweet agony that was the backdrop to their lives. But what he saw was different. The unmasking power of a camera was a terrible thing. The little girl opened her eyes and an intense dread and exhaustion was captured in the lens, inverted, and stored for his later perusal. As the melody faded her expression grew more ardent and focused, and she ended on an abrupt note as if to say: “I’m done.” When she bowed, her ringlets touched the ground.
The applause was deafening, embarrassing really. The photographer stole a picture as the elite, in a moment of weakness, conceded that all it took to impress them was a little girl and her violin.
“It was my honor,” she articulated in a rehearsed tone of voice. Her tall father stalked onto the stage, and pressed his large hand insistently against the small of her neck. “Thank you, thank you,” he said, smiling darkly. His daughter’s eyes found me briefly and then collided with the ground. I collected his defeat in my building gallery.
She became my obsession, and I her sole paparazzi. As she took New York and Europe by storm, always I was in her shadow snapping away. Sometimes she smiled, mostly she didn’t. Once she made a funny face.
The first and only time we spoke was an accident, years after I’d taken my first glance of her. We had both never meant for it to happen, we were too practiced in the roles of artist and subject. I had been given backstrage passes by a friend who didn’t care for concerts, and I was roaming the hallways where my muses were closeted off from the world for a short reprieve. I was merely hoping to catch a glimpse of her from afar.
On my way back to the auditorium, she stepped out of her dressing room and immediately recognized me.
“Hey.” Her eyes were flat blue. I had never noticed.
“Hello,” I said, unwilling to divulge too much information. Our relationship was too sanctimonious to be sullied by the details of our lives.
“You’ve been following me,” she observed.
I felt the weight of my incriminating camera. “I have.”
“Were you assigned to me?”
“Assigned?” I looked at her, puzzled.
She was irritated. I could tell by the inflection in her voice. “Did my father hire you to take my pictures?”
“No, no,” I said, wearing a nervous smile. I patted the camera bag. “I’ve got to go…now.”
The little girl without her violin watched me leave in her pathetic manner. She told with the eyes that had awoken me that she was infinitely superior, the David to my Michelangelo.
Later when I watched her, her eyes remained closed and uncompromising, her face betrayed nothing, and her body was as rigid as a statue.
She was immaculate to this end, and I was lower than dirt. I turned abruptly and found the closest exit, taking the tools of my craft along with me. The years floated by in the form of an unnamed gallery my wife would never think to look under. All the while, my thoughts cycled between disbelief at my gall and disappointment that our time together had come to an inconclusive end. I was thinking, quite pitifully, ‘Our muses make fools of us all.”