“Can you do it?” he asked me with an acute look on his face. His eyes reeked of desperation as if I was his last hope; perhaps his only hope. As I contemplated the request; I collectively gathered all my emotions and sighed. I was not up to this task; I was weary and lethargic; concerned I would not be able to find what he wanted. It felt as if hours have passed but it merely had been seconds as he kept his gaze on me waiting for a response. As I breathed in deeply I looked at him; my eyes connecting with his I exhaled slowly and said “yes I can”.
I am a photographer; I would love to say a successful one but I know that would be a lie. My art depicts realism, I like to capture life as it is; brutal and unsavory; the view master into a world without mercy. Dark I know but it is what I feel connected to. He saw my work on my social media, that’s how he reached out to me. He wanted to hire me for a specific request; a particular moment captured for eternity through an image; he wanted me to find the most beautiful person in the world and capture their image as if I was apprehending a piece of their soul and taking it back to him. Sounds crazy I know but my bank account is crazier so I knew I had to take the job, it left me feeling trivial.
For nine months I searched the world for the most beautiful and beatific people; taking picture after picture and sending it to him only for it to be rejected. From continent to continent I explored the globe; venturing from big cities to forgotten villages. I felt a bit like Odysseus never reaching my end goal only wishing to finish to come home. All expenses were paid by him but it felt as if I paid through my energy, I soon became apathetic. It was impossible to find this person because in reality they did not exist, by nature humans are not beautiful but ugly and corrosive. Perhaps my nihilistic view left me jaded but I finally gave up and went home.
I knocked on his door; I awaited anxiously for him to open; in that moment I knew I was defeated. No amount of effort could change my view of how conquered I felt by this inconsequential journey. I heard foot steps approach and slowly I saw the door knob turn; I promised myself to be stoic and emotionless. Tell him that there was too many beautiful people out there and to select only one was a perversion of nature. As the door slowly creaked opened I quickly thrusted myself through the doorway; though he did not allow me the chance to speak, he quickly asked me the question I was dreading; “did you find them?” As the thoughts of my response swirled throughout my mind my soul spoke without hesitation. “No, I did not find them; I did not find them because they don’t exist. People are not beautiful or benevolent, this is not a charmed life that we live. Despair, greed and selfishness rule the planes of this existence not beauty. Do you think I took this job because I wanted to help you? I took this job because of my own self preservation to survive. I’m not selfless, we are not a righteous species”. It felt as if I exhaled a breath of life out of me, I did not want to see his face so I closed my eyes. I was ready to go not wanting to hear any response from him. Once again he quickly spoke not allowing me to flee, “I know you did not find them because I did”. I reluctantly opened my eyes with befuddlement. “They are actually right behind you, turn around”. As I felt my body slowly pivot I felt frustrated but relieved. As my eyes locked in on this person I began to realize it was a mirror and simply a reflection of myself. Quickly I turned around to look at him and he was smiling, and in that moment I felt beautiful; all I could do is smile back.
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(copyright Adan Mendez All rights reserved)