putting faces to names — and bodies

Part 1: photo shoots past and future

We were going to be late. Five minutes for sure, maybe ten. Not a long time, but still. We strode through the dark, lonely streets to the bustling pub and searched the entire place top to bottom, twice, before concluding that we were first to arrive.

A picnic table was available outside and we pounced: it was the perfect place to see and be seen. The spring evening was cool but we were dressed for the weather and still warm from our walk, which had not been leisurely.

Time passed.

I concluded that something must have happened and started to wonder how long we should wait and whether this meeting was going to happen at all. Then I remembered that I had intended to provide a description of what I’d be wearing but failed to do so, and then I realized that he hadn’t requested a photo of my face. How did he think he would find me?

Suddenly, there he was, in a black coat that looked to be good wool. He would have walked right past me but I called out, “Nicolas!” and he stopped short. He hadn’t expected to be confronted with us before he even opened the door.

He stopped briefly to say hello and explain that he had DM’d me to say he was going to be late, but I was reliant on wifi and didn’t have access so I didn’t get the message. And he had planned to look for someone who seemed to be looking for someone, so it must have been a bit jarring to be hailed. When Nicolas continued on his trajectory inside to get drinks, I moved to Gawan’s side of the table.

The tone of conversation changed, as it must. It had been Zoë and Gawan, vacationing lovers; it was now Zoë, blogger and potential model, Gawan, companion and blogger, and Nicolas Laborie, photographer.

Gawan put his arm around me and gave me squeezes from time to time, and while we had been inseparable for two weeks already this particular public display of affection was new. The message to me was warmth, love, and happiness to be with me, but I noted with a touch of amusement that Gawan was being mildly territorial, and the message to Nicolas would have been “She’s with me.” But then if all went to plan, Nicolas would be seeing me with my kit off very soon, and I could see how Gawan might have feelings about that. A bit of masculine posturing was not unexpected.

After chatting for a while, we eventually had enough of the freshness outdoors, and Gawan went to look for a table inside. Now we were at a little round table against a wall: Nicolas took one side and I took the other, with Gawan in between. There were no distracting TVs showing the latest game and, surprisingly, no music at all. Just warm lighting and the buzz of animated conversation all about.

Our conversation was good and ranged over a variety of topics, but occasionally I did feel a bit left out. I can’t recall what prompted it, but I stated, “In Western society women are seen as weak.” I meant it as a shorthand. Stereotypical binary thinking, which views “masculinity” and “femininity” to be opposites, assigns one trait to one gender and the opposite trait to the other, and usually the positive trait to men and the negative to women, hence, “Men are strong, women are weak.” Of course, I recognize this as utter bullshit, and I’m sure Gawan and Nicolas do too. But they seemed to think I was saying that women are in fact weak, and then set about citing historical examples of strong women. I thought with a mental smirk, Are they mansplaining misogyny to me? But they weren’t, not least because they were talking to each other more than to me. Ah, well.

The conversation eventually turned to the shoot, as it must. Since my schedule was going to be tight, I had given Nicolas lots of warning about the days that I’d be available and had hoped to make some reasonably firm plans in advance. Nicolas, on the other hand, had picked up on my hesitation and didn’t want to make any firm plans until he was confident that I was in, which meant that he would now have to try to get some time off on short notice.

Two dates were possible. One was the last full day of my trip, but I didn’t want to leave it that late and I was going to want to spend that time with Gawan. The other option was the following afternoon, if Nicolas could get the time off work, which he wouldn’t know until morning.

And there was still the issue of location. The place where I was staying was roomy but spartan, lacking style, and otherwise challenging, so Nicolas said he’d look for a hotel room for us.

There was a moment when Gawan stepped away briefly, and Nicolas leaned in a little closer, his voice pitched for privacy (not that anyone would likely have heard anything interesting over the general hum), but the bigger the audience, the less personal the truths shared. (And some people fail to be truthful even when they’re alone, but I digress.)

All of us knew about the shoot, but only two of us would be participating and that creates a certain intimacy. Instead of straightforward details to be discussed objectively and pragmatically, Nicolas now wanted to know how I felt. I felt good. Comfortable. I had considered all the angles, had done my very best to know myself and prepare, and had realized that nothing more could be discovered except by trying it.

Gawan came back after a few moments and we chatted a while longer but I needed to eat and it was getting on, so with this tentative plan in place we parted ways.

It was late by the time we got back to the room and I would have been happy to go straight to bed, but I had this feeling that Nicolas might be expecting me to send a late night message backing out at the last minute, terribly sorry for the bother. I wanted him to know that I had meant it when I said I was in, so I made a point of sending a message reaffirming my interest in the shoot and my hope that he would be free tomorrow.

And with that big question in mind — will it happen or won’t it? — I somehow fell asleep.

Part 3: last-minute logistics

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