The Mystery of the Exploding Girl

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories

I can’t think of anything to write about tonight so I am just going to start writing and see if anything comes out of my head in opposition to my writer’s block.  Maybe I should simply describe the above photo.  I took this shot back in 2005.  It was a late winter evening, and I was finishing up an afternoon of deer stalking.  Now, I’m no hunter, but the act of stalking and photographing a deer is fun for me.  Such curious creatures, I doubt they feel my intrusion into their area is much of a nuisance, especially since I’m not trying to murder them.  Their legs are so stick-like, even the pattern of winter-shorn trees is effective camouflage from 20 feet away.  So if I ever get too close, they can simply melt away into the thicket, their footfalls as revealing as a dropped stone.  The day fell away to darkness and night surrounded the trail quickly.  Normally I’d heed the oft-echoed fears of my mother and sisters and steer clear of the forest after dark, but as is true with a lot of photography, exiting one’s comfort zone often reveals moments you wouldn’t otherwise capture.

A bright moon lit the sky and the ice-covered lagoon.  It was bright enough to see what I was doing, but cheap lenses and a small camera sensor made photographing the scene, even with a long exposure of 1/8th of a second at ISO 800, noisy and frustrating.  Years later, the editing tools have brought this image back to life with effective noise reduction and more interesting color processing options.

Still can’t think of something to write about.  OK, tonight I watched a movie entitled The Exploding Girl.  It is an independent film about an epileptic girl who worries over her fledgling boyfriend who’s away for the summer.  At the same time, an old friend of hers, a boy she’s known since grade school, stays with her and her mother in New York City.  The story as I’ve described it here encompasses the entire length of the film.  Not much else happens.  It has a documentary feel pushed to the point of seeming like you are watching raw unedited original footage.  It’s like watching someone sleep.  Have you ever watched someone sleep before?  It’s interesting.  There’s a lot going on in the simplicity of the act.  You can look away and miss something subtle, but if you look back, the overall impression may or may not remain the same.  It’s the ultimate quiet moment, like a lull in the conversation during a first date.  There’s something happening there in the eyes, even if one set is closed.

The title is interesting.  It makes me want to think more about what it’s like being a man in a world of 50% women, more or less.  They’re different.  We’re different.  Like I could try to imagine the reaction to the following story of mine, but I’d probably misjudge what words would bloom smoke-like into the conversation pool:

The other day, I saw a video on how to get rid of small dents in your car by using canned air, that dust-removing compressed air.  If you’ve ever held one of those cans upside down, liquefied compressed air shoots out at a few hundred degrees below zero.  The video explains that if you just heat up the dent with a hair-dryer, then spray some of this liquid air onto the dent, the dent will magically pop out.  So not having an extension cord, I just ran my car for a while until the engine heated up the hood (where most of the dents were).  I then sprayed some of the liquid air onto the hood with no apparent results.  I brushed some of the dirt off of the hood, tried again, but no joy.  So I went back inside and washed my hands.  I ordered dinner, sat down to eat and as I was licking the pizza off of my fingers, I tasted this foul bitterness on my fingers.  It tasted like some sort of poison.  So I didn’t swallow my spit, I went to the kitchen sink and spit out the foul taste.  I re-washed my hand and re-taste-tested my finger.  The bitterness was still there.  More washing and more tasting didn’t seem to help.  Thoughts of having a stroke or some other neurological event entered my mind because of years of living in a Psychiatric household (my dad is a Psychiatrist).  I heard that if you are having a stroke, you often smell almonds.  Or maybe if you are being poisoned by Arsenic, you smell almonds.  Either way, there’s some small bit of flawed knowledge swimming around my brain involving bitter tastes and health issues.  But I resolved that the problem was that the spray had permeated my fingers down several layers of skin and the only solution was to let my body squeeze the poison out over time.

So I imagine I know what the typical female reaction would be to that story, but I also know that I am just as likely to be wrong about the reaction.  See, that’s what’s so great about having someone else in your life to challenge what you think you know.  I can predict what I think will happen.  It’s a natural product of my brain’s pattern-recognition software to analyze situations and use what I’ve learned from years of experience to predict what a girl would say at the end of the above italicized paragraph.  But it’s just as likely that the girl will explode in front of my eyes.  Ultimately I don’t know what’s going to happen.  And that’s what makes life here in Earth so interesting and wonderful.

What do you think?