You once told me how you were captivated with photos, how it fills you with satisfaction capturing a picture perfect portrait of a moment, memory, or even a mere mortal. I almost always never understood this addiction of yours on why and how you’re more than determined to collect snips of your life in a paper inked by dozens and dozens of color to paint a single picture. It is somewhat a kind of a waste but you never thought of it like that.
“What is it with you and photographs?” a question I finally got to ask you after harboring enough courage. Yet you merely answered with a shrug and looked away, away from my prying eyes, away from the echoes of what I just asked you. I was on the verge of giving up on you when you suddenly held my hand tighter than usual. “Because…,” you muttered in between huge gulps of breath. I wrapped my arms around you hoping to shield you from your turmoil. For minutes we sat there, still and not making any sound while I let you hold on to me as if I was your lifeline. Anchored back to the present, you told me, “I’m just scared that’s all.” I waited for you to continue, to go on with what you were saying, but you just did not. I turned to look at you only to find you staring at the far distance, looking lost, gone.
I yanked my hand out of your hold but you were still transfixed far, far away from me, far from this reality. Your stare just did not falter at the slightest even as you told me the words which bugged me for the most of my hours, days, or weeks even. Those times following your passing that is. Yes, you left me. You left me hanging and alone without knowing the reason why you ended your life just like that. I’ve always been blinded by the pretense that you were more that okay amidst it all. Probably it comes with the denial of your loss. But if there’s any consolation, I finally know you aren’t okay at all, now when it’s all a little too later that I should have known.
But now as I lay here, I come to think of the last thing you told me. *“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then as to what worth would a million photographs be?”
As I recall you saying it that night, hours before you pulled the trigger over your head, I assumed it was merely rhetorical. I merely thought you were playing Socrates in order to halt me from bombarding you with any more questions. It kept me up all night staring at the ceiling only to receive a phone call at 3:00 A.M. on how you were rushed to the hospital and how the doctors shook their head in the inability to save you.
Until now, I’m still kept awake not of the distraught on your sudden death but because of that question you took me by surprise. I answered nothing then but I am afraid I do know the answer now. You did not capture those sunrises and the blossoming of flowers out of sheer creativity. Instead, it gave you a glimpse of a new beginning that this life failed to give you. You did not capture the candid smiles of random individuals out of a coincidence but because your heart yearns for this kind of happiness to be instilled deep within you. You did not capture the city lights just for the vivid imagination it fueled your satisfaction. It was the colors which brought light to every impending doom you have yet to undergo. You did not capture the landscapes and skyscrapers out of nothing more than an appreciation of abstract art. Rather, it gave you the leeway to live in a fantasy as the surrealism in these photos fuels your unwavering resolve to escape the trap this reality caged you in.
Darling, you weren’t just collecting photographs out of a hobby, out of a custom. And now, I know why you told me you were scared that time I asked you about this obsession of yours. *You were scared to find out that your life is a meaningless pit, like a hollow chasm with nothing but a void. In search of yourself, you found fragments of ‘you’ in these ink-stained scraps of print. It was how you defined your existence: in shots of images of the existence of others. Some might not understand, but you are brave and brilliant to this all. Brave for facing all your demons alone, no matter how I would have wanted to save you from your distress, and brilliant for discovering that our lives are merely a collection of lives complementing each other.
So, darling, maybe this is the end of the line for you, the brink of your voyage to obtain a million photographs. And to answer your question, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a million photographs would be worth a life. These million photographs are all you. These photographs are what make you whole, flawlessly complete. You will realize you always were as opposed to what the world let you believe in. And then maybe, just maybe, as you finally lay to rest, far-off from the tragedy this realm of this cruel dimension, you can be finally be at peace and eventually manage to realize that you lived not just a portfolio of photographs but a masterpiece.