I grabbed a wool sweater, hat, and my beloved and beat-up Olympus E-410 DSLR camera that my parents got me for Christmas several years ago. It looked very shabby next to Tim's Canon 5D Mark II camera and luxury series Prime lenses, but Tim was so sweet and encouraging about my photography efforts.
"Oh, cool! Is that your camera? Can I play with it?"
I was embarrassed to hand it over, but he looked at it and figured with it like it was a new toy, pronounced it "very nice" and handed it back. He could have taken that opportunity to be proud, condescending, and even arrogant about his camera, but he didn't. I liked that.
We hopped into his Mini Cooper, and I navigated us down to the Crossroads, Kansas City's art district.
"Can I warm up your butt for you?"
He started making more cheesy jokes as we drove, and I was just a sucker for them. His international background gave him comedy material that I'd never heard anyone use before, like eastern European accents and jabs at French cultural norms. I knew exactly what he was talking about and it was so funny to me. We started speaking in mixed sentences of French and English (or Franglish, as we call it) and I was so impressed that his French and English were equally perfect.
I suddenly realized that I couldn't put him in any one box or attach a specific label to him. Was he French or American? Ridiculous or sincere? Professional or whimsical? He seemed to have all these opposing character traits and he made them work together in his personality.
We arrived at the Crossroads (which were deserted that Sunday) and started taking pictures.
Then he asked me if I wanted to try his camera. His camera that cost thousands of dollars, that he used to run his business, the one that if anything happened to it he would be screwed (I didn't know then that he had two more of those at home).
"Are you sure? What if I break it?"
"Haha! You're a funny girl. These things don't break."
"Yes they do!"
"True. But it's all insured. So have fun."
Then, as I handed his camera back to him something happened, some chemistry laden exchange that I will never forget for my whole life because it was the first time I felt weak with romance over my husband.
He looked at me like I was a prize he wanted and planned on winning, and with a confidence he had waited to unleash until that moment, said:
"Come over here. Let me take your picture."
Then I tried to pull myself together and give him a serious model face.
It was so much fun. It was easy and full of light and happiness. In my mind, we became partners that afternoon. We were equal, balancing each other out with our differences and similarities. I had started to trust him, and he made me quit taking myself and the weekend so seriously and just enjoy the unspoken things that were happening.
And we got our very first picture together.