PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE MEADOW AND THE BEACH by Sahith Shetty
Of all the people on the meadow, the girl is the only one who is not taking photographs. Because photographs of a meadow are meant for people who don’t actually get to be on a meadow. In photographs, the fog is always thicker than it really is. In photographs, the grass is always denser than it really is. If the girl were to get a photograph taken of herself, she would start by trying to recollect what her smile looks like, from hours and hours in front of the bathroom mirror, from reflections on countless car windows she passes by daily on her way to work. And then she would try to choose from those smiles her best smile. If not the best, the second best. If not the second best, the third. And then she would try to smile as close to her best smile or her second best smile as possible. And then she would push her cheeks upwards with the corners of her lips. And then she would tilt her head this way and that. And then she would squeeze her eyes tight to form crinkles next to the corners to make the smile look more genuine, more real. But no matter how much she would try to smile, she would never be able to get it right. There would always be something wrong, something she couldn’t point out, something no one could point out, at least not the ones she would show the photographs to. They would know there was something wrong, and they would all look closely, sometimes so close that the photographs would touch their noses, but they wouldn’t be able to guess what was wrong. They would say her eyes were open a bit too wide, or that her scarf was covering too much of her neck. But never anything about the smile. And when she would see the photographs in which she never got the smile right, she would feel upset, and a strange feeling in her stomach would tell her that she would rather get a photograph taken next to a beach. If she were to get a photograph taken next to a beach, instead of the smile, she would have thought about the waves behind her. She would have wondered if when the photograph was being clicked, the waves were receding, and if the waves brought in a seashell to the shore. She wouldn’t smile for that photograph. The photograph would be intensely sad, like the fog lifting slowly over the meadow, like the towns in the distance disappearing behind the fog.