• Aperture: f/5.3
  • Focal Length: 24mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter: 1/125 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Starkville, Mississippi

Looks can be deceiving.

It’s hard to tell that this portrait of Boogie was taken early yesterday morning at Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He has been there since last Tuesday, being poked and prodded with needles as the veterinarians work around the clock to drain the cup of fluid that begins regathering around his heart each day almost as soon as they can remove it, drugged up on a regimen of pills so convoluted that I can barely keep them straight. His entire life hangs in the balance of words I can’t even pronounce. It’s hard to tell that he is barely responsive to my presence, lost in his own world, fighting a battle that I can’t share. It’s hard to tell that his disease is finally catching up with him and time is running out.

The rollover image behind it tells a truer story. The one I didn’t gloss up and prettify. It’s amazing what some clever Photoshop work can do. Like the stories that I weave, the pictures I create can make real life look so much better than it truly is. I can lie to the world. I can lie to myself. I can smile and say things are fine. I can take my Xanax and Valium and even believe it for a little while. I can hold Boogie in my arms and listen to him purr, close my eyes and imagine a world where there is no pain and no sadness and no fear.

I can grit my teeth and joke with the vets about being the only girl in the world foolish enough to make the 160-mile drive from Tuscaloosa to Starkville each day, just to hold Boogie in my arms for the 10 minutes they allow.

I can tell people I crank my stereo and enjoy the hour and half drive each way, skipping the part where I cry hysterically to the point that I can’t see the road until the drugs kick in and I am left dry heaving with no more tears to cry.

I can spend time with my friends and hang out at home and call my family and work on projects, glossing over the parts where I blame myself and my damned inability to handle my life, for not being attentive with his medicine, not taking him back for check-ups, not working hard enough to make the money to pay the vet bill that I can’t afford.

I can plan paint colors for his favorite room, prepare the house for his return home, skipping the parts where I wander around my yard, wondering where I will bury him, the nights I fall asleep crying, BlackBerry in my hand in case the vet calls.

I can handle the bad things the way I always do. I can write a pretty story. Shoot a pretty picture. Swallow enough drugs to numb the world to a pleasant haze.

But I can’t rewrite reality. I never could. And every pretty picture I take is just a broken mirror upside down.

Yeah, looks can be deceiving. And I know that probably better than anyone.

Music: Here Without You by 3 Doors Down (lyrics)

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