In the interval after the dancers sat back in their chairs and before the Master of Ceremonies regained possession of the microphone, a woman in manageable high heels walked briskly across the hall, with a photographer following not far behind.
The woman stopped in front of a propped-up music speaker, turned to her side, and swiveled her head forward to look at the photographer, who in turn had taken a professional position.
Everybody watched as time ticked by. Three minutes later the photographer was yet to take a picture. The woman shuffled her high heels back and forth, patted her scarf at the back, rebalanced the wad of wrapper hung around her right shoulder and returned a bland look at the general audience.
Soon thereafter the woman began to explore reasons for the delay. If the photographer weren’t too tall, and too huge, and old, he would have taken a few pictures by now.
Getting ready for a photograph and not immediately proceeding was what annoyed her about taking pictures at a public event. Younger people can tolerate such an ordeal, but not her, not when in nine months she would become a grandmother.
In a sudden disdain for the photographer, the woman’s gaze swung down, exposing the whites of her eyes. Displeasure conveyed through two scorching eyes is more direct and more stinging than that conveyed through mere spoken words, no matter how acidic.
The offending camera, a Sony, was skewed to the left where it had hooked with the flashlight appendage. The photographer pulled the flashlight out and scowled at it close up, the way African fathers glare at naughty boys, before reattaching it to the side of the camera.
He reassured himself that everything was fine. Just because he hadn’t taken a picture yet didn’t mean he was inactive. Credit, he knew, only goes to those who show results, never to those who show activity. However, he had expected better treatment from the woman, who – had he married early – was young enough to be his daughter.
Another idea flew into the woman’s head. If the old man, like many men at this age, was short-sighted and unable to read her eyes, she might at some point scream at him.
But screaming, she decided, would not only mess up her perfect picture body but might further irritate the old man. An action once taken can produce a myriad of unpredictable reactions. The photographer might feel threatened and resort to taking her picture when she was looking at her worst. Preserving her beauty by staying still trumped any delay caused by his inefficiency.
Over his camera, the photographer gazed at the woman. She was a statue of bright color in a garden full of colors. Her pink scarf tied around her head still held up high. The sheet of folded blue wrapper hung over her right shoulder draped down to her hip. But her perfect picture face had begun to melt a little at the edges.
Then he moved his finger over the snap button, and the woman knew something was about to happen. ‘At last,’ she sighed. The man had begun to get control of the situation. The flashlight appendage was behaving, and the camera apparatus felt sturdier in his grip.
She made an effort to match her initial pose, readjusting the wad of clothing to drape evenly over her shoulder.
She dreamed of a picture of a lifetime. Not every day does one achieve such a picture perfect pose, when the mind and the body are in perfect sensual harmony, and the rebirth of youthfulness obliterates all facial wrinkles, festoons, and eye bags.
If the photographer could maintain focus, the woman contemplated, he could snap away. Maybe even surprise her with more pictures than she thought he could take in such a short time before the Master of Ceremonies asked errant guests to leave the floor for the daughter and mother celebrants.
To get any pictures taken, the photographer knew he had to act very quickly. He had his fingers over the snap button, but they were trembling like the legs of a teenager who was drunk for the first time. Neither the index nor the middle finger could settle down on the camera button for him.
As the intensity of the woman’s gaze came down once more on him, his fingers trembled again. Soon after, the body of the camera joined the shake.
The picture-taking opportunity inside the hall was closing; the Master of Ceremonies had begun to pace around the middle of the arena, a microphone in his right hand and an event item list in his left. The entry of the daughter and mother celebrants was next in line. ‘Can every guest please return—–?’