Circumstance is a guiding force, but to say that circumstance is a guiding force is a fallacy: circumstance can’t hold your hand, tell you where to go or how to conduct yourself. Circumstance is a picture manual, an aid for reference for building a structure.
Circumstance lead me one morning to drink only a single cup of coffee, a cup out of the gallon of caffeine I require on a daily basis, though I shouldn’t need it. When I went to Audobon Park, I finally realized that I couldn’t bring myself any further. Exhausted, I had to take a nap on a wooden bench on the cusp of some shade. I couldn’t nap in the grass, for there were ants far and wide. I fell asleep with Cosmopolitanism by Kwame Anthony Appiah on my chest.
When I woke, the shade had finally reached my face. My head was cool but my body was damp. I raised myself from the dark and into the flux of light that I had slept through. I looked in all directions at the dogs and joggers, a girl in a hammock off to my right. Functionality was low. I needed a pick-me-up still.
I turned nearly 180 degrees to look behind me at the walkway. What stimulant did find me but none other than that of my friend Aurora, walking with the confidence of a broad, sun laden oak. She was walking with a friend whom I have never met. I watched them for just a moment before Aurora turned and saw me facing them from the bench. Her smile grew larger and she redirected her route towards me.
“Kevin!” she proclaimed as she got closer. She hugged me from behind the bench, and in the twisted embrace I saw that her friend had a Hasselblad camera hanging off his neck. In Aurora’s arms, I said, “Nice Hasselblad,” to the stranger. He smiled, knowing that the average person doesn’t know what kind of a machine this rectangular prism is.
They sat with me. I came to find out that Aurora’s friend was named Daryl. He had just gotten to New Orleans the night before and was about to leave the next day. Aurora wanted to negate the small talk as soon as possible.
“You should tell him about The Doodle Project!” she said as she grabbed my arm. She looked around me to Daryl who was sitting to my right. “Kevin’s a photographer too!”
One of my silly quirks about the Project is that I feel like there is a ‘buttering’ period before I introduce it to someone, even if I know I’m going to do it from the get-go, which I was. Aurora is in the Project, and this guy had a Hasselblad. It’s evident in the design of the situation that I was going to ask him. Therefore, it’s a mix of comfortable and unnerving when people introduce the Project for me before I get the chance to work it in. It gears the conversation away from the person in question, my process of learning about the person diverges. I prefer to bring it up when the timing is just right. (Oddly enough, later that night I ran into my friend Jay Tee, at Snake and Jake’s, and had a very similar situation to the one I had earlier in the day with Aurora. I had just made the comment to Jay Tee a day or so prior that no one ever shares their pages online, and she promised that she would start helping me get the word out. When I ran into her, she was sitting with some people whom I have never met before. She introduced me and immediately introduced the Project without any dialogue between us, telling them that they could be in it. It was 4 am. I just met these people. I was flustered. I went and got the Project out of the car anyway. When I came back in, Jay Tee said, “See? I support the Project! Don’t you think I deserve a beer?”)
It was less invasive when Aurora suggested I get Daryl’s doodle because, like I said, I had already been planning on it. I explained it to him, and he was struck. Daryl was very excited and was very adamant about doing it. Aurora laughed and clapped her hands with excitement. We talked for a moment more, and began to delve into it. Daryl told me that he had just bought a Polaroid back for his Hasselblad, which he said I could take a photo on.
“I couldn’t, it’s film dude, I wouldn’t want to waste it.”
“You wouldn’t be wasting it.”
I grabbed my Polaroid first and crouched in front of the two of them, still sitting on the bench. I told Aurora she wouldn’t be the focus of the photo, to which she said, “Well yeah, duh!” I made sure Daryl’s hand wasn’t in the way of his camera, took my focus and snatched the shot.
After getting Daryl’s page set up, I began to pick up bits and pieces about his visit to the city. It was on a whim that he decided to visit Aurora, as it was cheap from Colorado. Aurora had been trying to convince him to move down here, and he was very much considering it this time.
“Yeah, my brother lives in the city, he goes to Xavier, and my family’s in the South too. It makes sense then, I guess. The only thing is, I’ve visited the city before, but when I’m with my brother, it’s a fixed experience. I don’t know. He doesn’t go out much. At least, he doesn’t do what we’ve been doing.”
Aurora added, “Yeah, having someone visit is a good excuse to get out. I haven’t done as much as I’ve done with him in a while!”
The circumstantial nature of this encounter is indicative to the process of the Project. There would be no Project if I didn’t get out of the apartment – a tool in that regards. It forces me into social situations, and in order to get new material, I have to get out of the house. Daryl and I’s interaction was happenstance, but the perception of that interaction is relative because of the fact that, to a varying degree, this is an “average” encounter, though not to discredit how excited I was that it happened. Daryl’s energy rubbed off on me and the excitement of being somewhere new and having an authentic, unique experience just by the chance of getting out of the house is thrilling and contagious.
While Daryl was drawing, he reminded me that I could take a photo with his Hasselblad. He handed it to me and I held it in a parental manner. I’ve only seen Hassleblad’s in cases in antique stores. This one was pristine, seemingly perfect in function and design. The energy in this camera is modest, but the surge I felt when I took that photo was so indicative to the camera itself. Different analog cameras have different feelings based on the shutter. A Polaroid SX-70 promotes a rush to the back of the neck: you have to arch your neck forward to look through the viewfinder properly, as well as angling the camera so the lens is pointed at the subject properly promotes a tension in the neck. That mirror drops and the energy in your neck shoots down through your chest and into your arms as a Polaroid escapes, the energy dissipating with it. The Hasselblad was nothing like this. I felt it in my lungs and heart. That shutter fell like pat on the chest: stern but endearing. It was on a beat.
“Woah,” I said after taking the exposure of the two of them sitting on the bench.
“Woah?” Aurora asked?
“What feeling?” she asked again.
“I know it,” Daryl smiled.
Daryl had drawn a landscape. It was nice, but what really set us off was the photo in relation to the page. It aligned in such a way that none of us had forseen. The horizon lines all matched up in unprecedented relationships. The line of grass in the photo lined with the grass on the page, the bench grew into the far horizon line, and Aurora, matched in blue, became a mountain herself in the terrain of the page. The yellow sky of the photo followed along Daryl’s skyline, hot with orange and yellow. Unplanned, completely unintentional. Circumstance, that unexpected muse.
We were so taken with how the page ended up. We sat with each other a bit longer and talked about plans for the future and the potential for Daryl to move down here. Aurora had to leave for work soon and still wanted to show Daryl so much more. There’s always so much to see. I thanked both of them and said goodbye, knowing I’d see Aurora again, hoping Daryl would come around again.
I stayed on the bench just a bit longer, until the shade grew, the wind turned towards me and mist from the fountain in the pond started reaching me. I packed my bag and headed out. I’m glad I hadn’t drank much coffee that day. Maybe I ought to cut back a bit more.