Paper doll

  • Aperture: f/3.2
  • Focal Length: 17mm
  • ISO: 800
  • Shutter: 1/14 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1H

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Camera slung over my shoulder, lambskin jacket swinging easily against my hips, I walked towards the ornate stained glass and mahogany doors. Another magazine assignment, another party, another night at the Yacht Club. The kink in my shoulders told me I had worked hard. The rumble in my stomach reminded me why.

I photographed a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a four-star general, and an Alabama Supreme Court Justice tonight. They didn’t scare me. Truth is, I’ve done this so many times that it doesn’t really faze me anymore. It’s just a coat I wear — one more piece of myself I tuck away when it’s inconvenient and drag out when needed.

Party girl. Porf slapped that label on me, and it stuck.

The best times are when I get into the role, forget who I am and just go with the flow. I’m happy in those moments — calm, confident. Fitzgerald might have thought the rich were very different than you and I, but Hemingway knew the truth. They’re not different. They just have more money.

In many ways, I’ve become jaded. I don’t tend to notice diamonds or the hands to which they are attached. Same goes for all the other trappings of wealth. It’s just my job, as much a part of me as anything else I shoot. I don’t resent coming home to an empty refrigerator and a cold house any more than I resent having to use coffee filters for toilet paper and soap for shampoo.

Freelancer. It’s just another coat I wear.

I thought about this as I passed the furs hanging neatly in rows, waiting to be retrieved by their owners. The people at the parties spoil me with attention and lavish me with praise. They are disarmingly polite and charmingly casual, as the need arises. At the end of the day, they’ll all retreat to their bedrooms, shed their coats in a heap at the foot of the bed, and slide into darkness. Another party, another night at the Yacht Club.

We’re all the same really.

Sometimes the cloak of nightfall is the only place I am certain of who I am. I look back over my day and ponder all the moments when I made the wrong decisions, wore the wrong clothes to the wrong party. It’s hard to strike a balance between underdressed and overexposed, hard to figure out the invitation sometimes.

Lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, I realize I’ve been crying for a while.

Bad choices. Yeah, I’ve made a few.

I’ve got a closet full of drab, ill-fitting straight jackets. I’ve got boxes filled with clothes I loved dearly that are now little more than shards of thread held together by memories. I’ve got catalogs spilling over my desk, tempting me with pretty things that cost too much. All I really want is something to keep me warm and dry.

Sometimes I think the only time I feel normal — inside my own skin — is when I’m not wearing any clothes at all.

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