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It was just a moment, but somehow it managed to summarize a portion of my life. It was like that 93% on your report card that stares blankly ahead, an insignificant symbol of what had truly been learned in the class. It was like the people you meet that try to sum you up in a handshake. It was just a flash caught on film.
The day stands distinguished in my mind. It was a bleak winter day, grey dominated. The sky was dark. It sporadically spit snowflakes. The clouds hung, saturated, and a breathless wind swept white snakes across the asphalt.
My breath misted on the window, and I remember the slush outside. The sidewalk added to the monochrome setting. I had worked up a cough, sneeze, and sniffle on the way over. The day had already been exhausted. I wished to take no part in the venture to Cascade,the county seat, but the choice was not mine.
I followed my mother’s footsteps into a large room. It left me with an overwhelming impression of beige. As a small child I felt alienated in a room built for adults; the tall setting ridiculed my size.
I sat and fidgeted in a chair. A strange man arrived in a dark coat. He floated about and assembled a large camera. He mumbled, and my mother acknowledged his existence.
Something about the camera was estranged. Its dark lens stared me down. All at once my eyes started to water. The black coat muttered. I looked toward the ceiling and sneezed. CLICK. My ticket to the world.
I was caught mid-sneeze. My eyes were frozen in a twitch. It looked as though I had arisen from the dead. My skin took on the color of dried bananas; my lips gained a blue tinge. Snot was present, and it was as if the light had left my soul. One of my worst moments had been captured.
The photograph was destined to be my passport. For years I dreaded entering another country. It exposed my dark side. The customs agents would open the booklet. They would smirk, and secretly I knew they laughed inside. A face would light up, and there was usually some smart line, like “bad day”, simply said to mock my existence. I would shrug and pretend that I didn’t own the face pictured. However, I couldn’t live on denying my identity.
It was an unpicturesque second; it showed no real significance of my true character. The face said nothing about the little girl’s smile or the sound of her voice; it didn’t mention what she laughed at, or what made her cry. There was no hint that this was the wild-child that had once been restrained by leash in an airport. It didn’t point out her disgust in oatmeal or her infatuation with frogs and the color yellow. Even when you tried to read between the lines, there was no story. All that was seen was a sickly child, pale with purple bags beneath her eyes. Viewers were relieved that it wasn’t themselves pictured.
Time passed. I grew to realize the image was pointless. I was proud of who I was and gave up caring what people thought of me in a captured instant.
So often, people attempt to summarize life. The world is viewed through a skewed perspective. Questions are attempted to be simplified, explained in as few words as possible. Statistics are created. Labels are stuck on inanimate objects. Inferences are made about the unknown. Ridiculous conclusions are concocted. Crude assumptions are formulated. Inferences destroy mysteries. People tend to generalize and take the meaning out of life. A horrible bad day becomes one’s identity. The backdrop and plot disintegrate, leaving only a summary of the conclusion. The flavor and spice are stripped. The purpose is dismembered. Sometimes logical answers cannot be found, and things are better left not understood. A grasp of reality may take a lifetime comprehend and a second is just a glimpse of the surface.