Butterfly Lenses

I watched the camera blink as the picture was taken. There I was, the background, staring right into the future eyes of a family I do not know. How many other people’s pictures am I in? Pictures that they cut up, cut me out of, and discard. The unknown in the background–the “extra.”

But this one–I will not be an extra in this one. When they take that camera to the pharmacy, develop the pictures, ogle at all the photos they think are “not [their] best look,” there I will be–the next picture as they flip through shots of the four of them–arms locked, smiling at the camera, and me behind them, looking into the back of the lens. Caught.

When they see this picture, they will look past themselves. My presence will nettle them. If I had not looked up when the picture was taken, I would still be present, though they could ignore me. But I have invaded their walls with my present gaze into their future’s past. I am too present. A distant head between their smiling ears. A balancing frown. There it is–my gaze. My dark hair full of wind, and my green eyes puncturing their touristy bliss. I am here, they say, and I did not know you were. And they look at me from the future and mirror that thought. They look through different lenses, as their eyes are not identical. Does one see in sepia? Is it the mangled lenses of our eyes that enable certain of us to perceive red as such, and certain others to perceive it as less? I look into my own camera and watch it blink. I will never know what my camera sees. And the four who all stare at their picture will never know what the other sees when looking at me.

Maybe my hair looks rusty to the one that sees in sepia. But she has grown up seeing rust where everyone else sees brown, so she calls it brown. If she says “Her hair is brown,” they will all agree. But it is their brown, not her brown. Words. I find it difficult to catch the perfect one. They remain free–butterflies wafting floating meanings in my direction.

I look at them and wonder what it is that I am seeing.