If there is such a thing as the pornographic imagination, are there people who occasionally find themselves involved in a pornographic life? I don’t mean that they are living like a porn star in their own existence, with endless encounters as if an upmarket porn movie with the odd exotic location and plenty sex. No, perhaps what makes this story all the more pornographic is the absence of the sexual: that the friend was telling me not at all about people with whom he had slept, but more of the sex on the edge of his existence at this particular time.
For many years – between his late teens and late thirties – this friend, whom I first met at university in Scotland, would sometimes mention his affairs, but he would always talk about them with discretion, and often with a wry smile. His tales would tell me about his confidence, his charm and above all else his well-being. Did women get hurt during those years? Of course they did, but many of them were also willing to remain his friend afterwards, perhaps because they were still in love; perhaps because they could see that he was someone they would wish to have in their lives, but knew they could not change him into the man with whom they could settle.
But at thirty-nine, not long before his fortieth birthday, he met a woman to whom he felt an inexplicable tenderness, and he knew that he wished to spend his life with her. Yet within six months, and not long after his fortieth birthday, it was over: she did not love him she admitted, and returned to a previous boyfriend.
I never met her, just as I had never really met any of Richard’s previous lovers. This had nothing to do with any attempts on his part to keep them from me; more that we would see each other only every couple of years, and only for a couple of days. For some years I would go to a retreat in the south of France, and pass through Paris: I would stay a night or two on the way there and again on the way back. We would perhaps go and eat nearby, get a drink afterwards, and talk late into the night in his flat in Oberkampf. It was a top floor apartment with two rooms and a small bathroom. The kitchen area had space enough for a table and chairs, and could accommodate four people, but when I was there it was never shared by any more than the two of us. The other room contained a foldaway bed, a desk, a couple or armchairs and thousands of records and CDs, a couple of hundred books. There were also a few drawings up on the wall; his own sketches: of friends and lovers. One of the additional sketches the last time I visited, a few weeks ago, was of this lover, Melanie. This was a woman who had, I believed, broken his spirit. As we talked, mention even of earlier partners was inflected with sorrow.
I knew Richard would never take photos; he believed that if something was of value it deserved at least the time and attention it would take to draw it. A photo can be snapped in a second; where is the intent in that he would say? A drawing forces upon us the observation the camera steals. Anyway, as he told me about Melanie, he showed me a sketch pad full of drawings: all of them of her.
Melanie had been living with her boyfriend in the same apartment block as Richard. They were living a couple of floors below, and Richard would see him occasionally and her quite often. He was involved in cinema, and would frequently be shooting documentaries and occasionally fiction films outside of Paris or abroad. He was known for his fitness, Richard said: he could shoot on the move, was very flexible in his body, and would get shots most other camera people couldn’t catch. He said it with pain, a quality he knew the man possessed because Melanie had conveyed it to him. As I looked through the sketchpad, I saw a woman who lived inside her hair, long, thick straight and black, with large eyes, a small nose with a tiny bump on the bridge, and lips pursed and thin, containing the face’s sense of judgement. She looked not just beautiful but, despite the pursed lips, adorable, and though it was only his sketched perspective, it perhaps revealed more about her, and of course about him, than a photo would have done.
It would have been around eighteen months ago, he said, that he would see Melanie frequently, and never in the company of her boyfriend, and during this period he never saw the boyfriend alone either. Now over the years Melanie and Richard acknowledged each other, but never spoke beyond the immediate pleasantries. She always seemed to Richard either preoccupied or in a hurry, but during this period, when he didn’t see her boyfriend at all, she still seemed lost in her own thoughts, but as though finding an aspect of herself in his absence. She appeared more serene but also possessed a sad countenance. Richard had always found her attractive but now started to feel attracted to her.
The first time they talked, she instigated it. He was in the adjacent aisle at the nearby mini-market and they left the shop at the same moment. She had three shopping bags and he had one; she seemed to eat far less than she did, she suggested. Or shop more often he replied. He insisted on taking one of the bags, and they walked together the two hundred metres back to the apartment block. She asked him how long he had been in his flat; he asked her the same. She said five years, adding that she might soon have to vacate it: she wasn’t sure if she could afford the rent. Their apartments were the same size; he asked how much she was paying. It was a hundred and fifty euros more than his own, and he had been living in the apartment for well over a decade.
Over the next couple of months they would come across each other quite often, and over time they wouldn’t only talk for a couple of minutes, but for ten or twenty, sometimes half an hour. Once, around six weeks after that day where they had walked home with their shopping, he saw her sitting outside a cafe not far from the flat. He stopped to say a few words and she asked if he would like to join her. In their previous conversations they had talked about their feelings, but not quite personally. They had discussed the difficulty of living in Paris, about a film they had both seen, even about other family members (he knew she had a sister living in Nimes; his family was from Brittany). But this time, around eight o’clock at night, on a July evening where the light was beginning to fade, she told him that her partner would not be returning. He had been working for a while in New York, and now intended to base himself there. She did not say whether there was another woman but her dejection made it clear that it was more than a pragmatic decision on his part. She appeared sad, yet not quite devastated. He didn’t ask her when he had made this decision yet he sensed that it was a while before they first started talking to each other. He wondered if in talking to him she was compensating for no longer talking to her ex.
He never did ask Melanie about this; there was something in her manner, and perhaps something in his demeanour, his powerlessness in the situation, that made it easy for her to keep secrets from him: he always had the feeling of a person who did not want to be known; any revelation she offered never came from a question from him, but was revealed as a non sequitur from her. “My ex would come here often”, she once said when they were in a cafe on the corner in Montmartre, on Rue Yvonne Le Tec. They were having a drink on the terrace after a walk round the Cemetery (she would often walk around cemeteries) when she made the remark. At first, he wasn’t quite sure what she had said as a moped without its silencer roared past, and two dogs passed each other on the street and started barking, but the context she gave made it clear this is what she said. “Benoit lived at that flat over there”, she said, pointing to a top floor window on the other side of the street. He wanted to know more. Again, he didn’t feel entitled to ask.
It would have been about a month after that she asked if she could move into the flat. She didn’t want to give up the apartment, but couldn’t afford the rent: she reckoned she should sublet it. He agreed, half-convincing himself that she wanted to move in with him out of affection rather than convenience, and was reassured when she offered to contribute. He accepted any feelings of being exploited were not financial, but this didn’t make him feel any better; more that he accepted the reality that the exploitation was probably emotional: his purpose was to protect her from loneliness.
I wondered as he talked how much was a reflection of hindsight, how much he had believed she was never in love. As he talked with a deflated air but gave details of their months together, I sensed someone who had feelings for Richard that he didn’t now want to accept were there. As he told me about the walks they would do through the various Parisian parks, as he told me of films they would go and see, and of tiny streets they would discover, I believed that in other circumstances she might well have fallen for him, might have believed, and sometimes felt, that she was in love with Richard.
Yet of course after a few months her ex returned to Paris and she almost as promptly returned to him. She continued subletting the flat downstairs, saying that she had moved into her ex’s apartment, the one that she had pointed out that day from the cafe: he owned it and had himself been letting it for a number of years. Richard asked if they were staying there partly because it would be too uncomfortable having him live nearby. She was surprised he thought this, and once again he could see that the sensitivity of his feelings was met with her refusal to acknowledge them.
He didn’t see her for another year, he said, and during this time an incident took place that left him more despondent than he could understand. I knew Richard was someone who would every other weekend or so take trips outside of the city. He would need to find tranquility, and had over the years been to over fifty villages within a seventy mile radius of Paris. On one of these trips a few months ago he was on an RER, with two floors, and as the passengers thinned out the further from the centre they got, for the last thirty miles of the trip he was alone with a woman he assumed was in her early to mid-twenties. She got on the train while there were still a few more passengers in the carriage, but where there were still plenty of seats, yet sat opposite him. She could have sat in any number of seats and had more space to herself, he said. She was wearing a pair of denim shorts worn high on the thigh, and would keep crossing and uncrossing her legs; sometimes sitting there with her legs wide open. She was reading a book and occasionally glancing at her phone. She seemed oblivious to his presence, but he felt like a voyeur watching a situation where the person being watched assumes they are alone. Yet she knew she wasn’t alone; that he was sitting across from her, and yet she didn’t at all acknowledge his presence; gave no sign that another person was sitting so near to her.
There he was now over forty, feeling that he had been emotionally exploited a few months earlier, and then all but ignored on a train by someone who wouldn’t surely have sat like she did if someone her age had been sitting across from her; or if she did it would have been almost certainly flirtatious. Anyway, as the train reached the village and they were both standing by the doors, he said that he thought she should be more careful. She looked at him as though a statue had spoken, and in a hurried manner he explained that what she was doing could be perceived as sexually provocative. As soon as the doors opened she leapt off the train and didn’t look back. It reminded him of the moments when he tried to tell Melanie about his feelings and she met him with what he believed was a similar incomprehension.
I looked at my friend’s forty-year-old face and saw in it signs of aging that in other circumstances I would have suggested showed robust health and even a life of happiness. It was only the expression that made him look unhappy, not his countenance. I suppose at a certain point years of misery lead to a face that cannot counter its own countenance with its expression: the sadness becomes the face’s expression, and a smile is no more than a wry acknowledgement of a favourable moment in an otherwise troubled existence. I didn’t see this on Richard’s face, and hoped I wouldn’t start to see it in five years’ time. I asked him if he had met Melanie five years before whether she would have had such an impact upon him, or whether he would have seen it as just another of his affairs of the heart that needn’t impact upon the well-being of his soul. I talked to him then about the encounters with women that he would tell me about when I would see him every year or two, and that he would escape from apparently unscathed. I reminded him of two, as if to remind him of who he happened to be in my eyes, and that instead he seemed to be seeing himself through someone else’s – Melanie’s of course, but also this woman on the train, and perhaps numerous others women whom he would see in their eyes a hint of a slight.
It would have been over ten years earlier, I was passing through Paris and I only had a few hours before getting the train south. Richard and I met in a cafe in the centre, near a metro station that would give me a direct line to Gare de Lyon, and not far from where he was then living. While we were sitting there a woman passed our table and looked at him with an expression somewhere between a grin and a grimace. I asked if he knew her, and he said yes, and that the past tense was operative. He then told me that she was one of three women he happened to be seeing simultaneously a few months earlier, and she found out.
He referred to the three women as A, B and C, saying that he had been with A for a year when she moved to Montpellier for her job, and while she would occasionally return they agreed that no fidelity could be expected on either part, and so when he had an opportunity to start seeing B, he took it. B was only in Paris on a short-term work contract, and they both agreed it should be no more than fun, and it was while having fun with B that he met once again C. He had seen C while A was living in Paris, but nothing happened: he was at that moment committed to A, and knew that C had recently broken up with a man whom she was very hurt by and whom Richard knew better than he knew C, and liked not at all.
So there he was, still occasionally meeting up with A when she was in Paris, seeing B as she prepared to leave the city for good, and embarking on what he could tell might be a serious relationship with C. He was initially worried that C and he were bonding over their shared dislike of C’s ex, but after two or three discussions, he felt an affinity with her that was based on a shared interest in not so much cinema, art and literature, but something specific to these art forms. This wasn’t the place, he said, to explore what exactly these were, but it consisted of art’s capacity to express and explore loss. For both of them, their favourite art works reflected this feeling.
Anyway, one evening A phoned him saying she was back in Paris for just a night and she really wished to talk. There was urgency in her voice, and though he had arranged to meet C, he sent her a text asking if it would be okay to reschedule. Now he had never told C that he was still seeing A; he only said that A had moved south, and said it in such a manner that it implied they had broken up. C replied saying it was okay, but then later Richard and A were sitting at a cafe by the Canal St Martin and who passes them, just as she had passed me and him then, but C. The irony was that A was telling him that she didn’t think it was a good idea for them to continue sleeping together. She had met someone down south and thought it might become a serious relationship. She said it tentatively, as though the new lover was a practical need rather than someone she had fallen in love with, but Richard said he wouldn’t have minded how she had phrased it. He was looking forward to once again simplifying his life, with only C involved in it. Yet there she was walking past Richard and A, and she had that look on her face of pain, bewilderment and a little bitterness. He knew she had been hurt and betrayed by her ex, and now it looked like he was doing the same to her. He got in touch on few occasions but she never replied. That moment as she passed was the first time he had seen her since that day where she had walked past him while he was sitting with A.
He asked me how well I remembered all this, and I said it was coming back to me as he talked. He asked me how I conveyed the story to him; was it with sadness, humour, scorn, guilt? I said my memory suggested it was with humour, and a touch of remorse. Now, he asked. I didn’t quite know how to reply, except to say that, yes, there seemed less humour and a lot more guilt. He suspected C understood the nature of loss at a much earlier age than he did, and that while he wouldn’t want to say the interest in loss in art was a feeling he didn’t really have, it was only recently he had understood how profound that emotion can be. Is it even an emotion; perhaps any word like emotion that we attach to it robs it of its purpose? It is more chasmic than that: it no longer belongs to us, this loss, but we belong to it. We lose ourselves in it, in the feeling, for want of a better word. This has nothing to do with catharsis or purging or whatever: no it is concerned with time.
There had always been moments in conversation with Richard where he would convey an idea with an added intensity, and I would sometimes wonder if humour was his way of combatting this forcefulness, by making the serious light, without absenting the serious altogether. I knew he never liked small talk, but he loved laughing, so it was possible that someone would perceive in him a superficiality that wasn’t at all the case. But now the humour lacked laughter: he had become the straight man; before he could tell a joke and the laughter he offered was part of the telling, and it was of course especially evident in going over again this story from years earlier.
Perhaps one of the problems with the comic is that it relies on perspective: one person’s tragedy is another person’s farce. There was an element of this in the story with A, B and C. Richard was empathic enough to notice that he had hurt C, and sensitive enough to know that he might have lost someone worth knowing, but he still saw the tale that he told initially as funny. The second time in the telling it was no longer so. Nothing had changed, no new information about the story became apparent; the story nevertheless possessed a different inflection.
Usually, I would go off to the retreat for two weeks, but this year I decided I wouldn’t go to the retreat at all: I wanted to discover the spiritual calm I would find in that environment by finding random places on my own. I rented a 125 CC motorbike for a month, bought a camp stove, already had a tent and sleeping bag and off I went down south, stopping wherever I could along the way that seemed remote enough for nobody to ask me to move on once I had set up my tent. I chose well, it seemed: I was only asked to remove myself twice.
In the retreat I often felt spiritually cleansed, as we would say, but also socially habituated: after two weeks I would become attached to some of the people at the retreat and find it hard to leave them behind. I wondered if this was contrary to the principle behind my visit: that wasn’t I supposed to be finding myself rather than the company of others? What does it means to find oneself, and is solitude not the only way to find it? During that month I spoke to no one, except to order a drink or buy some food. I had taken four thick nineteenth century novels with me that I had always wanted to reread, and they were all the words that I required. I would often sit making an omelette or cooking a piece of fish on my camp stove, listening to the occasional rustle in the grass, the wind in the trees. There seemed to be no difference between a small animal going through the bushes, and the wind rustling. Whether it was the intention of a beast seeking food, or the lack of intention in an olive bush swaying, I felt that nothing was expected from me, and perhaps this is what finding oneself and knowing freedom happens to be.
Unlike Richard I had very few women in my life, and the most important was my mother. After returning to my local town after university, and getting a job in the college there, teaching history and modern studies, I would visit her two or three times a week. My emotional assignations were few and unhappy: I seemed to be a man that women could never love but easily leave, and I would usually meet them through work colleagues and friends who thought I might be a good match. These were usually women who had recently parted from a man whom they had loved, but who had left them, didn’t want children, wanted to move to another city. The reasons might have been varied but the result always seemed the same: that I was a man whose company they could feel comfortable in, but who didn’t feel they wanted to stay in it for very long. They would leave me with a sad look on their face, but the resigned look that came from them was for me. I am sorry, they would say. I am not in love.
I was a clumsy lover and a hesitant conversationalist, and perhaps my ability to acknowledge these aspects at least meant that I could have brief affairs with women who liked me without loving me. If I was oblivious as well I suppose they wouldn’t have gone to bed with me in the first place. Am I being too harsh on myself, and why talk about myself at all when I am telling my friend’s story? Perhaps to suggest that one reason I have been sexually unsuccessful and uneasy in communication is because I have always liked my own company. It is a phrase used often enough but I think what I mean by it is that I have never managed to find my nervous system settled in the company of another. Even, or especially, with my mother. I was too attentive to her needs, her moods and her demands, and I was like this with the women I would see, and perhaps a little with friends too.
Richard had seemed to me the opposite. He rarely saw his parents and would often argue with them when he did, he would say, and I knew from our time at university that he could feel so comfortable around others because he didn’t mind offending them or hurting them. He was never malicious, no; but he wasn’t accommodating either, and I never sensed him feel that he needed to be apprehensive in the company of other people.
When I returned to Paris and he asked me about my trip, I told him a bit about the places I went to and the villages I passed through. But I found myself after about twenty minutes talking about my thoughts above, and also asking him about how he had been feeling over the last few weeks. As I explained to him how for the first time I realized just how solitary a person I had always been, but had never quite acknowledged (that the term being relaxed in other people’s company had little meaning for me), so he said that he had more to tell me about Melanie. But first of all he said that I was right: that he had over the years usually felt very at ease in the company of others. Whenever he had been alone, however, for more than a few days, he would seek assignations with women. This is partly why he supposed he had so much sexual experience: it was easier finding a new sexual partner than making another friend. You can’t go to a nightclub or a bar to find a friend, though you might make one, but, if you are passably attractive, outgoing, flirtatious and, yes, even predatory, something would often happen. But it was as if since Melanie had left him he could not go out and sleep with strangers, and said that the most meaningful encounter in recent months had been with me: that he really enjoyed talking to me before I went south, and was so glad to see me again.
I asked him first why he felt uneasy with Melanie, and he said it was always so; that he never wanted to hurt her or cause offence, wanted to make sure that a room was never too hot or cold, that a meal was to her satisfaction, a film to her liking, or an exhibition pleasing to her. While I had been away, he had thought a lot about this. He reminded me of C and said that he had never been like that with her at all. When he would now think about it, he enjoyed going to films and exhibitions much more with C than with Melanie, or rather they seemed in retrospect much more meaningful encounters. He could still remember conversations with C, and while seeing other shows he would be reminded often about things they had talked about. All that he could recall with Melanie were occasions where he was waiting for her judgement, hoping that she approved. She was no doubt very relaxed in his company, or maybe it would be fairer to say that she cared not at all whether he was relaxed around her. She could easily show irritation, frustration, and exasperation, and he supposed this was a trait of her character that she might not have shown to her ex, and would have turned it against herself. When she was with Richard she turned it against him.
As he talked, I was reminded of my relationship with my mother, and that Richard came late to the realisation that another person can take control of our nervous system so that even in their absence we cannot quite create a settled feeling in our own. It was only during the month’s trip that I began to feel the absence of others in my own nervous state, and for the first time there Richard and I were, in each other’s company, with me probably more relaxed than he was.
I suggested this, and he concurred, adding that given recent circumstances I might believe it understandable why he was so agitated. He said that a couple of weeks earlier he had seen Melanie again; he saw her on the stairs and as she acknowledged him he tried to engage her in conversation. He asked if she had moved back and she said rather the opposite. She was letting go of the apartment for good. They exchanged a few more words before she insisted that she needed to go: she was clearing the apartment. He didn’t see her again, and didn’t see the boyfriend at all, but a couple of days later he was walking past a large heap of items left on the street and recognized a dress that was hers, and assumed the others items were Melanie’s also. Amongst the pile were around fifty CDs some of them unmarked, some burnt copies labelled with a marker pen, and others originals. He took them all, unsure whether he was doing so as a strange act of theft, of curiosity, of revenge.
When he returned home he noticed that a few of the unmarked CDs might have been DVDs, copies perhaps of Benoit’s films. He recalled Melanie saying that he had been increasingly making short films for TV news, and then on his own shooting lots of extra footage that he was working into a feature trilogy: a work on three continents, showing exploited labour. Benoit had been working on the film for years, and Richard wondered whether it was just Benoit’s way of convincing himself he was a serious filmmaker as he increasingly made a living working in mainstream television. But when he put in the first DVD he could see that the images Benoit shot, and the interviews he conducted, were of value, and he assumed this was a rough cut that Benoit would have sent to a festival or to friends. It didn’t seem quite finished, and presumably why it was thrown out. Or had Melanie broken up with him again and wanted nothing to do with him at all; didn’t even want to live in her old apartment and just chucked everything away? As he mused over her motives, he put on a second DVD, and this wasn’t part of the same project; it was a home movie. It opened on footage of Melanie looking bashful, sitting on the couch, dressed in light summer attire: a short blue skirt above her knee as she sat cross-legged, and a red slip. She wasn’t wearing a bra and her nipples were clearly visible through the thin cotton. Off screen he could hear a voice saying that he was ready to start, and she moved her index finger towards her breast and started fondling it, then moved her other hand down to her skirt, lifting it up and slipping one finger and then the palm of her hand inside her panties. After a couple of minutes a man joined her: it was Benoit. Watching it Richard said of course he wasn’t at all excited as he viewed the film; his nerves vibrated, his stomach lurched and the veins on his forehead throbbed with tension.
It would have been filmed several years ago he surmised, based on Melanie’s haircut, which he recalled from before they had started chatting with each other. He said this as if to say it could have been worse: it could have been footage shot since Melanie and Benoit had got together again. I didn’t know what to say, and there was a minute or so of silence as Richard looked out the window. He was looking as if inward rather than outward, but as I followed his gaze across the way there was a woman walking naked through a room, grabbing a towel as if she had just come out of the shower. She looked up and across and would no doubt have seen two men sitting near the window who seemed to be staring at her. She snatched the towel up in front of her, went across to the window and pulled the curtains shut. I looked at Richard who didn’t seem to have noticed this at all, the image no doubt of Melanie making love to Benoit on his mind rather more vividly than his nude neighbour. While a few months before he could be disturbed by a young woman’s oblivious flirtatiousness on a train, now he seemed so disturbed that he couldn’t even notice a woman had reacted to what she saw as our prying. After a while I asked whether there was just one DVD with sex on it. He said he didn’t know: after watching it he put the whole lot in the bin, double wrapped in two bin liners and dumped below other rubbish as if to make sure nobody else would look at them.
When I departed a couple of days later I said that he should visit me in Scotland some time soon: he hadn’t returned since his days at university. I’d made the offer on other occasions, but his promise that he would always visit seemed not so much a false one as close to a cheque that he didn’t feel any need yet to cash. Yet this time the promise sounded urgent, closer to a thankyou. We shook hands as we would always do, and he waved me off as I went through the passport check at Gare du nord.
Sitting on the train as it hurtled me back to London, and then on another one that would more slowly chunder up to Edinburgh, I thought a lot about my own lonely life; how it was an escape from nervous anxiety, while Richard’s had increasingly been a move towards it. His life had been as full of experiences as mine had been devoid of them, but there we were at a certain moment in our lives moving in different directions perhaps. It is as if our friendship was at its most pronounced when I was beginning to achieve a state of calm, and Richard felt he was in a state of immense agitation. I wondered at the beginning of this story whether there is such a thing as the pornographic mindest, that it is a kind of passive agitation, as if the nerves are apparently assuaged but because there is usually no possibility of shared communication, it remains without resolution. It has satisfied too narrow a range of needs to be satisfactory. I don’t want to make any great claims against the pornographic; just to say that Richard appeared in a state of nervous anxiety partly because he possessed a desire that for the first time in his life couldn’t easily be met by others. Before, perhaps, sex was always a game, played for real, but its seriousness somehow sublimated. But there he was entering his forties asking for it perhaps to be an art form, something that would satisfy his soul and not only his egoistic and bodily needs. Maybe this is what I mean by the pornographic; that it seems so socially unacceptable because it appeals to the immediate senses. yet doesn’t even involve the ego, let alone the spiritual needs of love.
I suppose these questions have never really concerned me; I am not what would be called one of life’s sexual animals. Yet Richard was, and seemed, both before and after my trip down south, a wounded animal indeed, someone who had predicated his life on the sexual and felt increasingly as if it would be no more than the pornographic, horribly illustrated by the DVD he found himself watching. Yet many people I suppose find themselves like Richard, their flesh deteriorating, their desire equally present, and the bodies they wish for to fulfil that desire harder to attain. For the first time in my life I feel at peace with my own inadequacies, seeing in them qualities that can make for a fuller existence within its limitations. I suppose I have always sought the spiritual, if we can see it as the opposite end of the spectrum from the nervous. I hope if Richard visits we can take long walks, drink tea in cafes, go to galleries and watch films, and that he can find in the absence of immediate sexual satisfaction a world that has eschewed it as a priority. But I would be even happier still if he came to Edinburgh with a woman he could love and show her the city, sketching both her and the town. I believe this is what he would still wish for; while all I have ever wished for is a sustained calm. Perhaps. Yet I also find myself thinking of the images he would have seen in the film of Melanie that her ex, and perhaps still present, boyfriend had shot, and how the many hours that he had spent sketching her might forever be obliterated by that simple press of a button.