June 13, 2015

Heather’s exultant return was covered by every local news channel. KCCI pounced on the story, whipping its audiences into a frenzy. The media undauntedly dug further and further into her experience, getting all the juicy details and peddling them to the public. During one of her interviews, she acknowledges the involvement of the other victims but convincingly steered away from revealing anything about me; although that made me feel safe, I was shaken by the fact I was never going to get the recognition I deserved for ending something that would’ve otherwise continued.

It’s hard to see the world with the same pair of eyes after experiencing something as morbid and shattering as being held captive and being both physically and psychologically violated upon. To my surprise, though, I’ve recently developed a weird sense of humor in regards of the aftermath of my kidnapping. I would wake up from nightmares that brought me back inside that basement, but after the initial state of petrification, I’d burst out into prolonged laughter thinking about the crazy things I’ve been through. Part of you changes after overcoming something like that; you become scarred and an eerie, unsettling feeling washes over you regularly and when you least expect it. However, the kind of trauma I’m stuck with isn’t quite as serious as I thought it would be.

The first year of college is over for most of my peers, but not for me; since I’ve started later than everyone else, I’m going to have to take summer classes and workshops to catch up on if I want to graduate in time with everybody else. My favorite class right now is photojournalism, but I have a feeling that’s about to change since my teacher Kathlyn is on maternity leave and was just replaced with the unpleasant Mr. Paul; I can already tell I’m going to have a hard time dealing with him. The day I learned about the change, our classroom was switched and I was so close to being late; I had arrived to our usual one right on time only to see a post-it on the door saying there was a change, so I ran as fast as I could to the other side of the building and had to badger my way in, making it clear that we weren’t notified about the switch-up. He wasn’t convinced at first and wouldn’t let me in until two other classmates showed up right behind me and claimed the same thing. He allowed us to come in then, but for some reason, he was particularly annoyed with me for disturbing his class which at that point, hasn’t even started.

Last weekend, Ryan had a road trip planned to St. Louis where one of his favorite bands was performing; he asked me to tag along while Tye visited his parents in Dallas. He had an extra ticket for me, and so before I even knew it, I was spontaneously packing for our trip together, something I was so excited about. As soon as we made it into the city, we made a quick stop at the historical museum before grabbing lunch at one of the top oyster bars where he had a large dish of crocodile meat he made me try, and I absolutely loved it. At night, we attended the concert that took place at a nice venue overlooking the Gateway Arch. I had my camera on me throughout the whole thing, and enjoyed experimenting creatively with different angles and shutter speeds while Ryan embraced the music and the atmosphere.

When it comes to living and experiencing life, I’ve realized but only recently, that I was more preoccupied in capturing and preserving moments instead of living them. Ever since I got my smartphone, I’ve been fascinated by how quick one can snap a picture of a moment so unique and spontaneous it’s almost impossible to see it coming. When I was sixteen, my parents finally agreed on helping me out in purchasing a professional digital camera, and ever since I wrapped my hands around it, I didn’t want to let it go. Ryan would laugh at me every time I whipped my camera out to take a photo of an old, distressed barn, a rustic windmill or random people hanging out in public places.

I’ve always had a huge fascination with capturing little moments that would otherwise be lost, forgotten, or simply overlooked. To put it simply, I enjoy looking at the smaller picture instead of the bigger one. When I was young and I’d be spending summer afternoons hanging out at home, I’ve always had the distinct pleasure of revisiting my childhood memories through photographs. My mom had dozens and dozens of family albums on our living room bookshelves; I occasionally looked through them every time my memory of those photos faded, and I was surprised at how my attention switched from looking at the main subjects of the photographs to looking at the little details in the corners of the background. If you think about it, family photos can get repetitive and boring; you don’t really get much by seeing people posing for the camera with either their fake smiles or serious looks (as if the photo was a mandatory punishment). It’s stupid and eventually becomes redundant, not to mention, a fake representation of what those moments actually felt like. I’ve grown up taking those kinds of typical photos because I didn’t know better, and people seemed to hate it when I took their photos without their knowledge. I have to admit, though, sometimes taking photos of people either talking or in motion can bring in unfavorable and unflattering results, but I’ve somehow grown to like them; it’s catching instances like these that would otherwise go unnoticed that was intriguing to me, and the camera’s powerful capability of instantly snapping a shot exactly when I wanted it to was very satisfying. My talent in developing and embracing my own norms of spontaneous, amateur photography began with my phone since the convenient size of the tool came in quite handy when walking down the street or just going through my daily routine. My camera was too big for me to carry everywhere, and its size obviously made it harder for me to take sneaky photos, so my phone’s decent camera became my best friend and second eye. This kind of photography was practiced privately; I’d take the photos without anyone’s knowledge and prevent from sharing them, scared the people in them would take offense and make me delete them. My intentions when I take those kind of photos is pure and in no way harmful. One day, though, I decided to share the beauty I saw in them with the outside world, and although I received a lot of backlash at first, mostly from Rosamunde who seemed obsessively boastful and self-conscious with an excessive concern regarding how she would be perceived if anyone saw photos she disapproved of, often started vocal uproars with a haughty attitude that created this feeling of disgrace I feel towards her. On the other hand, once I started taking the risk of posting spontaneous photos of my friends online, I was happy to get compliments on some of them even though different people focused on different things; the subject’s positioning during the taking of the photo, the setup, the angle, the lighting as well as other minor factors. My confident rose and my amateur photography style bled into my formal photography as people developed an interest and new expectations regarding how they wanted to be seen; although some tried to monitor my behavior and catch me either taking a photo or filming them and often failed, they enjoyed knowing those photos were taken without them noticing, and that by the end of our day together, they’ll find pictures of them online, and that excited them. While a lot of people hate being photographed, I’ve had friends who took that as a huge compliment, and enjoyed my photography. Ryan is one of those people; he’s at ease with himself and the camera absolutely loves him. He has a carefree attitude regarding who he is, the way he dresses and his occasionally feminine mannerisms. Then again, Ryan has lived longer than me, and something tells me he’s been bullied, criticized and judged before for how he used to maintain himself and the life choices he’s made. He’s fifteen years older than me, though, and I’m sure I’ll eventually grow a similar attitude towards the world. At least I hope I do.

Our trip ended back in Iowa, eating pizza straight out of the box on a dirty sidewalk. We got two for a discounted price of five dollars. We pulled this old trick him and his friends used to do back when they were in college where they’d order family sized meat pizza opting to ‘pay-at-pickup’ but eventually never show up. He said they’d order it on the phone and wait until closing to pop inside the store and ask if there were any leftover pizzas on the rack for sale, thus, getting their originally ordered pizza at the discounted price. He added that they always made sure to call from a pay-phone on campus so they wouldn’t get tracked which allowed them to do it countless times and all through their college years.

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