Because I was feeling inspired, I give you the first of my Snapshot Stories—encounters that stayed with me through my travels. Enjoy!
Siem Reap, February 2013
The sun burned hot and bright against my back, sending trickles of sweat down the thin cotton of my shirt. The occasional breeze rustled my hair from its bun. My leggings had long said goodbye to their pristine black state, standing no chance against the fine orange dust that coated the ground. Like the finest of powder, the dust jumped at the slightest movement, swirled at the slightest whisper of wind. I’d been warned about it, but it had still shocked me when I arrived in that small but mighty town. No longer.
I stood smiling as my friend struck a pose in front of the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple. Structures of red stone rose above him, battered by time, yet still glorious in the intricate details and the graceful curves and curlicues that brought life and depth to those solid walls. As though there wasn’t a crowd of strangers milling about us, my friend crouched down low, perching one arm on his thigh and planting his chin on his fist. He arranged his face into a solemn expression not unlike the stone men that sat guard outside the temple’s libraries. I chuckled at his antics. Self-consciousness was something I’d yet to overcome.
I turned my head and looked at you. You, smiling in your loose tank, your fair skin turned pink by the sun. I hadn’t noticed you until then.
“Can you take my picture?” You extended a simple digital camera to me. Orange. Nicked and faded in some areas. None of those bells and whistles that would scare off a less-than-avid photographer.
The corners of my mouth curved slightly as I took the camera. “Sure.”
You found a clear spot and planted your sandaled feet squarely. My friends had moved away, drawn to another vantage point of the beautiful ruins that would outlast us all.
“How do you want me to take it?” I asked. “Portrait or…?”
Your shoulders lifted in a careless shrug as you flashed a smile at me.
I looked through the small screen. Framed the shot. Clicked.
You moved toward me, and I met you halfway. Your camera transferred hands. You stood close to me and bent your head as you checked the photo.
I waited anxiously. “Is that fine?”
“That’s perfect.” You looked up at me and grinned. “Thank you.”
British. I smiled back. “You’re welcome.”
Then I walked off, armed with my own nicked little camera to find my friends. Taken in by my surroundings, I forgot about you in a flurry of photographs and passing faces.
Until I saw you again.