If I'm To Be Your Camera
by Mosca

1- Therese

They started out hating each other. Therese hated Elizabeth for being the sort of girl who got good marks effortlessly, and Elizabeth hated Therese for being the kind of girl who hated girls like her. Four years later, they had all the hiding places and secret codes: "I've got so much reading to do, I'll never get to bed" meant "Meet me in the dormitory supply closet after lights-out." They would meet during school holidays and spend the day on the Tube, not going anywhere, just riding the Circle Line round and round. They asked an old woman on the train to take their picture, and that's what she still has of Therese: the two of them grinning, in transit. Therese went to University College London, cut off her long dark hair, and became a militant lesbian. Elizabeth became the one who got away.


2- David

He thought that Elizabeth was going to marry him. He thought that Elizabeth would love him so much that she would drop out of uni and have seven of his children. He thought that it was funny to get pissed at parties and make rude gestures at cameras. He thought a lot of things, but he didn't think about any of them.


3- Hassan

When she was a medical student, she tended bar at a corner pub in the sleepy Cambridge neighborhood where she lived: not because she needed the money, but because she needed not to have to ask her father for it. Hassan cleared tables, emptied ashtrays, mopped up when a group of students ventured away from the High Street and spilled lager all over the floor. She lived in a share house with four other postgraduate candidates, all of whom she and Hassan kept awake nights. He was a talented photographer, loved to take pictures of her, but she has only one of him: the two of them on the roof of the pub, kissing. He dumped her when he got engaged to the Muslim girl his parents picked out, but they slept together a few times after. She hopes he's been more faithful to his art than he's been to his wife.


4- Peter

She had him because she wanted him. She hadn't thought Americans would be so pretty, but that was Peter: the eyes she could see her reflection in, the lips she could sink her tongue between. She loved his skin when she kissed at the hem of his scrubs, and she loved his cock when she held him against the tile of the post-surgical shower. And she almost loved him, sometimes, when he tried to disguise how afraid he was of her. She's kept this picture because it was taken on the only night when she really felt she understood him. They are sitting together in the hay, huddled against the nip of Chicago Halloween; he has draped the feathery scarf of his Shaft costume over her shoulder. He's smiling, not just baring his teeth. Sometimes, she's sorry they didn't last long after that. Sometimes, she's sorrier it has been so easy to love him afterwards, as a friend: that they had to alienate each other as lovers first.


5- Mark

She has more pictures of him than of any of her other past lovers. Fitting, as he's the one she married. There's not much more to say beyond them: she was his, and then he lost her, and then the world lost him. "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have lost at all." That's how the saying ought to go.


6- Robert

It's ugly now to admit that she never loved him back. If he had one redeeming quality, it was that his affection for her never faltered. If he had two, it was that he was nearly always right when it came to her. He never said outright that she would regret not loving him, but he implied it in every gallant relinquishment of her. It was an accident, two accident (duplicating, maybe, his pair of good traits) that killed him. But she has not yet convinced herself that she might have been the one thing capable of keeping him alive. Her picture of him is from the 1999 Surgeons' Ball. They are all toasting something: the new Millennium, the glowing promise of the future.


7- Ella

This is a love of another kind: her little love, her beautiful child. Ella's eyes glisten with ghostly presences. She grins on the beach; she blows out her second set of birthday candles. Elizabeth clings to this, her constant, knowing there is no constancy, choosing pre-schools and setting aside college money because she must believe that this is the one love that will outlast her.


8- Abby

She wants to take pictures of her new lover naked. Abby demurs: where will they get the roll developed? What seems private will become a joke for the Walgreens lab staff. Abby pulls the sheet up to her chin and shakes her hair into her eyes. She is new enough that Elizabeth could keep pretending not to be having this affair. A photo will make it real. Elizabeth will look through her albums someday (surely this won't last forever) and she'll feel Abby's hands on the back of her neck, Abby's tongue on the inside of her thigh. "All right," Abby says, "just one." Elizabeth zooms in close, frames only Abby's face and shoulders. She'll remember the rest.


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