Thursday, September 2, 2010

I'll Take the Pictures (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

Mama Kat of Mama's Losin' It conducts a weekly writers' workshop, with a choice of prompts, such as this week's.  When I decided to participate, I wanted to make it a true exercise (plus, I couldn't choose which prompt I liked), so I put the numbers one through five into a random number generator and prayed the number five wouldn't come up, because I knew what I would write about if I got that prompt, and I didn't think the subject had matured enough for me to write about it.  Of course the "random" number that came up was 5!

Here's the prompt:

Oprah says we all have a story. If you were on her show, what would your story be? What would you be talking about? What advice would she give you? Write about it and provide a snippet of your interview together.

And here's my response: 

I'll Take the Pictures

When I moved to New York City in 1989 to take my bite out of the Big Apple, I left behind the relationship I had been in for three years. I took on New York City, my new job, and the additional jobs I needed in order to afford to eat, with gusto. I roller bladed through Central Park. I got money from an ATM on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx that “spoke” Italian. I spent a Puerto Rican Thanksgiving in the Bronx and an Irish Christmas on Long Island. I was attracted to NY Lens but didn’t tell him. He was seeing someone on the opposite coast; I was still sharing intimacies with Florida Guy when he would come visit or I would visit him. As for me and NY Lens, there were dinners, movies, worshipping together, poring over his photography, great talks. That, and an unspoken energy that lay dormant.


After a couple of years in the City, I decided to marry Florida Guy and return to Florida. I told Mr. Lens this news on the way home from a fun night at his apartment in New Jersey with a couple who were friends of ours. I had secretly hoped he would drop the friends off first so we could talk. He did. I announced my engagement. In the silent seconds that elapsed, a solid and definite partition locked into place between any hopes either of us had harbored for a future being more than friends, and the reality that the dormant energy would be on indefinite hibernation. His words to me: “So, do you want me to take the wedding pictures?”


Choosing to pursue the practical path, and knowing intuitively that the airtight partition had sealed, I said, “yes.”


Weeks elapsed when Mr. Lens and I did not talk, despite me calling his number numerous times. I don’t know what subversion of the heart it took for us to come back together, on the day of my wedding, as friends. The pictures turned out great.


Once Florida Guy and I set up housekeeping, and started a family, I lost touch with NY Lens. Years went by, years in which, if the airtight seal of the partition ever threatened to be compromised, I told myself, “well, he wasn’t interested in having more children (he has a daughter) and probably isn’t likely to marry.”


One Christmas Eve, I opened the mailbox and beheld a card from NY Lens and Mrs. Lens. He had gotten married. The first of the air started creeping past the hermetically sealed partition. I called on New Year’s Eve. The dormant energy was still there. We saw each other the following July. Over the ensuing years we have visited each other, and somehow navigated the air seeping through the partition to get to a place where we have each other’s backs, each wanting the other’s marriage to be fulfilling and comforting.


Fifteen years later, NY Lens, his wife, my husband and our two children met on that same spot on the Brooklyn Promenade and took a “now” picture as a companion to the “then” picture.


Oprah: So, let me get this straight – if the audience were to transport itself back to New York City in 1988, they may see the two of you dining at Isabella’s, reveling in each other’s company?


Me: Right. We talked about things like what his daughter was reading!


Oprah: If you had given in to any romantic feelings you had then, where would things be now?


Me: That would have been fun, BUT in the long run this has turned into one of the most sustaining friendships of my life. In the movie “When Harry Met Sally,” Harry told Sally that men may pretend to be your friend, but they really only want one thing. Sally argued that that wasn’t true.


Relationship Expert: Studies show that the power of male/female friendship is restorative. In a survey, 56% of women and 44% of men attested that they have remained friends with someone they could have loved romantically, and that they would give up the romantic part for the friendship part if they had to choose.


Oprah: Okay, since today is “Takeaway Tuesday,” what is your takeaway?


Me: Like my book, “I’ll Take the Pictures,” says through the stories submitted by couples who have faced this situation, it’s important to nurture and treasure those friendships that didn’t have an opportunity to turn romantic.


Oprah: Let’s get a picture of this; say hello to NY Lens! And as a treat for everyone in the audience, you’ll find an autographed copy of “I’ll Take the Pictures” under your seat! Share it with someone who needs to have their faith in male/female friendship restored!

8 comments:

tanya said...

This is an awesome post!!! You are a fabulous writer. Since I grew up in N.J. 20 minutes outside of Manhattan, I have a vivid picture of everthing you described. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Paula said...

Tanya, thank you so much for stopping in! Those years I spent in NY (with some experiences in NJ, CT, and the surrounding areas) made me a different (better) person in more ways than I can adequately express. I am glad you enjoyed my post!

ournextchapters.com said...

Oh wow... I don't think I have ever maintained a man-woman friendship. I've tried... and been let down and discovering what they were really after.

Beautifully written... I really enjoyed reading your post!

Paula said...

"Ournext" - thank you for stopping by! I would encourage you not to lose faith - it is possible to have a man-woman friendship (notice I didn't say "simple"!). It also depends on the people involved; my friend is the kind of generous person who also took the pictures at his ex-wife's wedding, definitely not something everyone would be so selfless to do!

M.Jay. said...

I love your post. I could never maintain a long term frindship with a guy, this is dangerous territory and I know myslef well enough to know that things could just get out of hand...glad you guys are still friends:)

Astro said...

The last time i remember making friends with strangers and keeping the friendship long term was when I was studying in Australia.. it's not easy maintaining friendship over the years.

Paula said...

M.Jay, thank you for stopping by my blog! I think it is important that you know yourself well enough to know the boundaries you need to set.

Paula said...

Astro, you are right - staying in touch for the long term is a challenge. It is a little easier now that we have email and things like Facebook - helps us keep our finger on the "pulse" of our far away friends' lives!