by Autumn Janelle Hutson
The first time I met Cole was at a party in the Hills, crouched at the edge of a glittering infinity pool, with a camera held up his eye. He was so engrossed in taking those pictures, stunning drunk partiers with bright flashes, that he didn’t even hear Jack call out his name. I’d been following Jack around the party, only half-listening to whatever he was telling me. Well, more like telling the empty space over his shoulder since I was much shorter and out of earshot. A lot of the conversation got lost in the noise but I did manage to grasp that we were looking for someone named Cole.
I followed Jack around at a lot of parties during that first month in Los Angeles. We had a single mutual friend but that was enough for him to take me under his large wing. And although he mentioned the script he was working on during every one of our conversations, Jack was a decent guy who meant well, taking it upon himself to make me feel welcome in the city.
As we crept up behind Cole, I watched Jack bring his foot up and lightly tap his friend’s backside to get his attention. When Cole nearly teetered over into the water, I quickly swooped down and grabbed his arm to pull him away.
“Jesus Christ, Jack!” Cole cried when he turned and saw who the culprit was. “Do you have any idea how expensive this camera was?”
“Your grandparents paid for that, if I remember correctly,” Jack teased.
Cole scoffed. “That’s just a technicality. I care for this baby as if I had paid for it, so does it really matter?” he looked at me and continued, “Three words: Vintage. Leica. Minilux.”
“I don’t know what that means,” I said.
Cole’s face twisted up into a pained expression and he shook his head, letting me know just how disappointed he was in me.
From that night on, I would come to offend Cole with my ignorance often, especially when it came to old films, which he was obsessed with. His grandparents had been a filmmaking duo—visionaries first, immigrants from the Philippines second—with an affinity for disturbing art house films.
“No one understood them!” Cole had said during one of his passionate monologues. “They knew what it meant to capture an abstract feeling, the ones you can’t explain with words. The big studios weren’t doing that!”
He vowed to fulfill their dream and become a renowned filmmaker himself one day. Maybe even go to the Islands to bring his vision to life. Except that sentiment was all he could conjure up when it came to planning for the future. I learned that Cole was practically incapable of discussing the future in any substantial way because it was boring in its inherent evasiveness (that’s the line he always gave but I think it’s because it brought on intense existential dread that he wasn’t equipped to deal with).
No, the future didn’t interest him as much as the past did, or capturing the nostalgia of a moment as it was happening, which was why he was deeply attached to his camera. Cole was all about taking the present and preserving it as a Beautiful Past. He was very talented at it, too.
I’d asked him why he never put his camera down one night at a different party, on the same hills. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll miss something?”
“I miss everything all the time,” Cole said, gazing out at something beyond the balcony railing. “The second I take a picture, I long for that moment again. But I just want to leave something behind, you know what I mean?”
I nodded. “Leave something behind for who?”
Cole sighed. “For me, I guess.”
Deep down I felt sorry for Cole—sorry that he was on this self-imposed quest to keep the good things in his life behind glass, subjecting them to his reminiscing. He so desperately wanted nothing to change that it terrified him, but change was lurking around every corner. I considered warning him of this when I saw Cole hold the camera up to his face from the corner of my eye.
Hold still, stay just like that!
Ah…that’s gonna be a good one.
Autumn Janelle Hutson is an overindulger in her imagination and a keeper of expectations that most would deem unrealistic and fantastical. This is what makes her a great writer. She has work published in Disquiet Arts and 805 Lit + Art.