Sitting on the terrace of the bar in my street eating a chicken, that’s how I find Lola this Friday afternoon. She’s tucking in with her hands and her face shows how much she enjoys this simple meal.
I sit down at the table with her for a drink, because sitting down at a different table is not what you do at the bar in my street.
We’re talking and chatting and laughing.
Lola is a woman full of energy, a woman that looks like she’s enjoying life to the fullest. She’s beautiful in her being. She makes me want to take her picture.
I get up and go home to get my camera.
As I get back Lola immediately starts posing. This isn’t actually how I wanted things to go. I prefer shooting people unnoticed and Lola is visibly not at ease posing. But since I promised her to take pictures that is what I do.
When she starts talking again she tells me that she doesn’t like her pictures taken, because in pictures you can see the soul of a person. They reflect the sadness that’s hidden deep within.
She grabs her bag and takes out a picture of her mom, holds it next to her own face and asks me if I see why her mom has always hated her? She tells me she is one of four sisters and three brothers, but she’s the only one hated by her mom.
Of course I see it; Lola looks exactly like her mom. So when Lola sees pictures of herself, she sees her mom and feels her hatred.
Soon I’ll find out though that unfortunately that’s not all the sadness Lola carries inside.
Giorgio, the waiter, asks me to show him the pictures I took of him and Lola, because he’s interested in me taking pictures for him for a photo book he needs for his work. So as I do, Lola asks me if she can also see the pictures I took of her.
I flip through the pictures with her and Lola starts crying. She grabs her arms to hug herself and shows me the goose bumps. She shows a whole array of emotions and for a moment I fear her getting angry with me.
Then she suddenly grabs some identity card out of her bag and shows it to me. I do not recognize the person in the picture.
It’s the picture of a woman wearing a headscarf and a totally blank facial expression. I don’t see what she’s showing me, I don’t get what I’m supposed to see, until she starts talking again.
The person in the picture is Lola. It’s the Lola that was enslaved in an abusive marriage for 10 long years.
The marriage ended a mere two years ago when her now ex-husband threatened to kill her bastard kids from her first marriage. That’s when Lola found the courage she needed to break free.
The picture that made her cry is a picture where she’s having some fun with Giorgio. It shows the same gesture of her grabbing herself to hug herself. It also shows a shift in emotion from the fun she’s having with Giorgio back to the dark place where she used to live in.
I promised her not to show that picture.
Lola, sweet, Lola. Always laughing, always dancing!!!
As a side note: While comforting Lola I told her that I know how she feels. She quickly retorted “Oh, do you?” Of course I don’t. As much as I was stuck in a bad marriage for years for things out of my control, I never had to fear for my life or the life of my children. A story isn’t about the writer, unless it’s an autobiography.