Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Single White Photographer

I met this woman at a friend's summer BBQ a couple years ago. Nice enough gal, she seemed alright. Over the course of some rather pedestrian conversation about hobbies and pets, I tell her I'm a photographer. Hey, isn't that nice, she likes to take photos, too. We get to talking about an online community for amateur photographers, and how she had just joined but she didn't have any contacts and found it oh-so overrated. We don't swap contact info for future friendship stuff, mostly because I think she's really boring.

A week later, I visit her photo page, full of uninteresting photos of her cat and fluffy white clouds and dull grey buildings. Emotionally detached and snapshoddy. I add her as a contact because I'm polite, and then I notice that her contact list is almost identical to mine. She went from 4 contacts to over 100 in just one week? And they're all the same people I know personally? Wow, I think... small world.

As the weeks progress, she calls me a few times and sends a few e-mails. Hey, how'd she get my number? She asks me if I want to go out and take some photos with her in the Big City. I've always preferred solitude in photo-exploration mode, but I eventually break down and say "yeah ok".

Our outing was pleasant enough, except for one really fucking irritating thing - whenever I took a photograph of anything, she would stand right behind me, just inches away, peering over my shoulder at my viewfinder, and watching my every move. At first I thought she simply had no sense of personal boundaries. Then, after each shot, she would step into the exact same spot I had just vacated, and photograph the exact same thing. From the same angle.

I thought this was strange behaviour at the time, but I tend to be suspicious of everyone at first. I figured she was just experimenting with technique, and I even flattered myself into thinking she might be learning new things from me.

The next day, I download the photos from my camera to my computer, and upload them to my online photostream. Not my best stuff, but a few decent shots. After a bit of browsing, I notice that all the shots I just uploaded are already on this girl's photostream. Uploaded the night before. How can this be happening?

But these were not my photos - they were her photos now. Every shot of hers was identical to one I had taken. The framing, the subject, everything.... she ran home and posted her shots before I got a chance to upload mine. I start to get comments from my friends (who are now her contacts) saying things like "hey...that looks just like this girl's shot...". The girl even sends me an e-mail accusing me of being a "copykat". That was the word she used. Copykat.

"Fucking bitch! She's a Single White Photographer!" I tell my boyfriend. He laughs. Oh yeah, so funny. But hey, I know what's really going on, and it's just a stupid website -- not a contest - so there's no point in getting upset about it, right?

Two weeks later, she shows up another party with a new haircut, dyed a new colour, and in fact it's the same very distinguishable hairstyle and that I have. Interesting! She greets me with a freakishly crushing hug and sits me down to tell me she just had drinks last night with Our Mutual Friend, a man I once had special relations with, and still a bit of a sore spot for me. We were intensely passionate, but equally toxic to each other. Still, it stung to think about him again, and I couldn't believe she knew the same guy! I grinned through my teeth while she coyly played with my brain, all the while letting me know that she knew my secrets now. She had heard all about my bedroom stories, my personal problems, and my entire history with Our Mutual Friend. Then, so there was no missing her point, she says: He's pretty awesome in bed, though - isn't he?

It's not easy to fight back feelings of jealousy and intrusion when you're up six cocktails and holding a messy burger in your hand. I tried to focus on the happiness I had rediscovered with my current boyfriend - well, maybe more like a recycled boyfriend - who had recently moved back to town and rejoined the Rocket Rodeo. But that didn't really help.

The Single White Photographer was already making flirty little moves on my boyfriend. She wanted to know all about our complicated love story. She gave him sweet and innocent, and he gave her every detail without hesitation. She put her hand on his knee. He looked at me in panic.

I thought it was a bit funny, actually. This was his "please help me" face. So I politely asked her to remove her hand from his knee. I tried to make a joke of it, something like "Hey, don'you be fresh wit' my man, y'all." But she turned red and threw me some very dangerous stinkeye action, then excused herself to get another drink.

I didn't see her again for a while, so I casually asked the hostess of her whereabouts. Apparently she insisted on leaving in a hurry, about 20 minutes ago. She said "something had come up."

I thought nothing of it until we were leaving the party, and I couldn't find my shoes. Or my jacket. They had both vanished into thin air. I could have cared less about the shoes - they weren't spectacular, but it's a real challenge to get home drunk without your fucking shoes. The missing jacket was a bigger disappointment. It was my favourite, purchased years ago in Geneva, completely unique and irreplaceable.

I immediately suspected my weird little friend had made off with my stuff. Yes, I can be a world-class jumper to conclusions, but rarely has my strong intuition been proven wrong. I was convinced that she had stolen my things on purpose in retaliation for the embarrassment I caused when I called her out for mauling my boyfriend in front of everyone at the party. Sure, I could entertain the possibility of mistaken identity, you know, if someone actually had a similar-looking jacket to mistakenly identify, but not when the suspect didn't wear a jacket to the party in the first place. And the additional shoe mix-up? I refused to buy it. I have been drunk more than enough times to know that even falling-down-drunks can still recognize their own shoes.

Some kind-hearted guests joined in the search, but we couldn't find a thing, and there were no unclaimed jackets or shoes left at the scene. So I left empty-handed, freezing and barefoot, with an unexpected $30 cab fare, since public transit was out of the question at that point. It was all a big mystery until 3 days later, when I received an e-mail from the Single White Photographer.

I think I might have some stuff of yours! Oops Sorry!

I had to leave the party early, and in my haste, I think I accidentally took your shoes and your coat.Would you and your boyfriend like to drop by my place later and grab them?

Let's hang out!!!

I didn't feel like "hanging out" with this person. So I called up Our Mutual Friend and asked him if he would steal my stuff back the next time he found himself an overnight guest in her home. Of course, he said yes. Boys love to play James Bond any chance they get.

A week later, I opened my apartment door to Our Mutual Friend, wearing my beloved jacket and huge grin on his face, carrying my shoes in a bag. It was such an awesome sight. I wish I could've taken a photo of that moment.

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