Post 311: Graduation, by Max Caulfield
I’m finally graduating! Ahhh!! Literally can’t believe it. Yeah, this blog post might be much more about me personally than the usual photography talk, but I deserve it, dammit! I’ve never had the best grades, but the adjustment to my medication has really allowed me to focus (who would’ve thought a lower dose would help so much?)– even finished up with a 3.1 GPA! Wowser. I wouldn’t have even dreamed I’d be above a 3.0.
High school and the first year of college are still a blur, but I’m not even concerned with who I used to be. Just… well, I’m looking towards the future now. Taking photos has always been my passion as far back as I can remember. Will I be able to find my dream job, or at least a decent career in photography? I sure hope so. I have no idea what I’d even do with my life if not working behind a camera. I guess I’ll put a resumé and portfolio together soon. Then, I’ll have to start applying for jobs. That’s the next step, right?
If you’ve kept up with the blog, you know I’ve been working for my dad for a few years now, and I’m ready to pursue something new. Something for me. Like I said, I deserve it. Not just a part time gig pushing paper so I can pay the few bills I have… but like, I wanna work someplace where I can plant my roots and work my way up (look at me, already sounding like I’m interviewing!).
Damn, that’s right. Yikes! Interviews will be in my near future. The idea of putting myself out there to be judged by a potential employer makes me nervous as hell. My parents say I’ve come a long way… and I agree. It’s taken a while for me to realize that I can get through anything as long as I push forward – just gotta take the next step.
I guess that’s it for my personal stuff. I’m just super proud of earning my degree! Anyway, I do have some new pictures I’d like to share. As you know, I moved away from the Polaroid a year or so ago. Still using the Canon EOS Rebel with a prime lens so I can capture that “real” feeling the instant cam used to provide.
Landscape photography isn’t necessarily my typical style, but I took a trip after finals and ended up traveling from Seattle to the southwestern tip of Washington, capturing scenes that took my breath away. Spent an entire day just driving around allowing myself to go with the flow, wherever my inspiration led me. I hope you enjoy!
As always, thanks for checking out my blog! It’s become super important to me the last couple of years, not just as an artist ic outlet, but for my mental health as well. Without the emotional support and kind comments you guys leave me, I really don’t know how I would have made it this far. I’m more thankful than you could possibly know.
Chat soon. Promise.
238 LIKES (14 comments)<sorted: date submitted, descending>
Congratulations on graduations! Seriously. Not only are you talented behind the camera, you’ve battled personal issues and are courageously paving your way through life. You’re an inspiration to hundreds of people out there, me included. A lot of us have been following your journey since the beginning. Stay strong. Oh, and amazing landscape shots!
Great work on getting through college. That’s a very important time in a young person’s life. Kudos, Max. I’ve never commented before but I appreciate your work. I’m probably not a typical person that follows your blog, being an old fuddy-duddy, but I wanted to say we’re excited for you.
I have two sons. Both of which are photographers in their own right. It’s more of a hobby for them. They’re pretty damn good, too. I wish I could tell them just one more time how much I love them. I’m proud of the men they have become. Raising families of their own and caring tremendously about the people in their lives. No doubt we’ve raised those two boys right.
Anyhow, I digress. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us (even the old timers like me). It’s great to see young folks getting past their problems and carving their own paths.
God damn, Max. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of your hard work. You deserve the fucking world. I mean it. ‘ Grats on finishing college, dude! I know you don’t actually know much about all the lives you’ve touched, but, for me personally, I literally wouldn’t be here if not for you. What I mean is, this blog… your story. It means so damn much to me, you have no idea.
I always feel locked away and all alone nowadays. But because of you, I have the strength to keep going. One day at a time, ya know?
Anyway, this is your 311th post, this is my 311th comment. Boo-yah!
To echo the others – ¡FELICIDADES!
Gracias for sharing your art and your life. Please keep us updated during the interview process and all. We’re rooting for you, chica!
Congratulations! All the best.
(click here for 9 more comments)
“Time’s up, Jane.” The warden’s gruff voice echoed throughout the chamber, bouncing off the dingy cement walls and sending a chill down the girl’s spine. Being deeply immersed in her reading, she’d completely forgotten three men were currently in the room with her. Despite being a bit startled, a prideful grin materialized on the prisoner’s face as she sat at the small table in her cell. She read through this particular entry from Max’s blog dozens of times over the last year or so, but it still warmed her heart like it did the very first time she saw it. Coupled with the fact that she would soon be face to face with the photographer, she couldn’t help but be in a good mood. “She just arrived. We’re getting her checked in then you’ll have your time with Ms. Caulfield.”
The suited man inserted then twisted his key in the rusty cell keyhole unlocking the barrier between himself and the inmate. Every rattle and clank seemed amplified because of the excitement building in the girl’s mind.
“I sure as fuck hope you open up to her.” Slinking over towards the girl in shackles, the warden abruptly grabbed Jane’s chin with his large, calloused hand, squeezing until her mouth was slightly forced opened. She grimaced and groaned but no other sounds escaped her lips. “I’ve only heard your voice through sobs and grunts. More than damn near anything, I want to hear you speak. Anyway, we’ve accommodated your written request. No video cameras. Nobody in here but you two.”
As he released his grip, he pushed the inmate’s head to the side then gently wiped the single tear that had streamed down her face creating a clean alleyway with tiny dirt trails on either side. “You’ve always looked at me with that ‘eat shit and die’ sparkle in your eyes.” The man smirked then continued. “I’m gonna miss that pretty, angry face of yours after you die. Truly.” The warden confiscated the laptop and slammed it shut.
Having trained herself not to lash out, anger quickly subsided and thoughts of her upcoming meeting bubbled in her mind. She’d become an expert on the photographer’s blog, and the prisoner knew sticking to the plan would be absolutely necessary, more now than ever. She realized taking it slowly was imperative, yet her heart was brimming and she wanted to say much more than she should once Max entered the room. She’d dreamt of this moment for years and it was finally upon her. If she weren’t physically restrained by chains and shackles, she would run up, wrap both arms around, and squeeze her freckled best friend’s body with all her might never letting go. But no, she couldn’t deviate from the plan or the consequences could be dire for both of them.
With the laptop snuggly tucked between his arm and torso, the warden exited the chamber and disappeared around the corner out of eyeshot. A large door forcefully banged shut, rattling the steel and walls. The two guards that had accompanied the man stayed in the room to prep for the incoming visitor. One placed a second metal chair that matched the first on the opposite side of the table from the still-sitting prisoner. The other fidgeted with the first camera’s wiring, disconnecting it from its power source. When the first was off, he moved on to the second then third. After several moments, all three cameras, that had always shone with a small red light beside the lens, had been disengaged.
A slight panic prickled through the girl’s body causing her leg to rapidly bounce up and down as she watched the guards also vanish around the dimly lit corner. Having her cell’s door unlocked and left wide open wasn’t a sight she’d ever seen before. The guards were typically thorough and cautious, keeping doors shut and locked behind them as they entered and exited her cell. It’s not like she could move far from her shackled spot if she wanted to, but the prisoner could sense a crumb of freedom calling out, beckoning her to make a move.
She couldn’t be bothered by the desire for freedom just yet. Her visitor was under the same roof and any minute now, they would be in each other’s presence. That thought alone both filled the girl with hope and made her want to bawl her eyes out. But she didn’t. Just as she’d done for the better part of the last five years the prisoner stayed strong, maintaining an even keel appearance – though she was freaking out in her mind. Per usual, she shut her eyes when on the brink of a meltdown, recalling the last time her father came to her.
“I’m so proud of you, sweetheart.” Facing his daughter, the man grabbed both of her hands and pulled them to his chest. “You’ve come a long way. Just hold out for a little longer. Follow the plan and it’ll all be over soon.”
“Dad, I’m not strong enough,” the blonde responded through blurry, tear-filled eyes. “What if I fuck it all up? I’m pretty good at that, ya know. What if I can’t do it?”
The man pulled his daughter into his chest for a tender yet firm embrace. “I’ve told you, sweetie. You’re here because the universe needs both of you. You’re the yin to her yang. There can’t be one of her and not one of you, and vice versa.”
The girl slightly pulled away to get a glimpse of their surroundings. They were standing in an empty Two Whales Diner at night; not another soul in sight. The dark of the evening and the gentle amber glow from the nearest streetlamp transformed the windows into mirrors from the inside. Catching a glimpse of herself, she realized she was wearing the lime green tee she had on the same day William passed. She remembered standing with her best friend as her mom limped inside their house and mournfully relayed the horrible news. It was the day her entire world was changed forever. It was the day darkness replaced the light in her heart and she was crushed by the weight of her pain.
Tears began to fall and her dad pulled her into a booth helping her to a seated position. “Hey, hey, sweetheart. We talked about this. I know what you’re thinking and you know what I’m about to say.”
She wiped the salty residue from her cheeks and patted the moisture from her eyes. Taking one big sniff to clear her nose, the girl made eye contact with her father; the man she’d lost long ago but was still in her heart so much so that he made residence inside her subconscious. “Y-Yeah, Dad. You always remind me how everything seemed dark and grey, but being back with her helped move those clouds away, allowing the sun to shine through. Then you’ll remind me that we wouldn’t know light without darkness. You’ll say if we turn to run from it, we’ll always be in its shadow. It’s not until we face it, that we can begin to see blue skies again.”
“We’ve been here a few times haven’t we?” the man chuckled.
His daughter nodded her head then released her clenched jaw and scrunched down eyebrows. A slight smile formed on her face as she felt relief flood through her, calming the dread and uncertainty that had previously taken control.
“You see, you’re so much stronger than you think. Give yourself a little credit, then…” he paused, reaching out an arm, resting his open palm on the girl’s shoulder, “go easy on yourself. The guilt and grief you’re harboring doesn’t belong here anymore. Focus only on your plan, then you’ll have the rest of your life to work on becoming the best version of yourself. Together, you two can earn peace if you stay by each other’s side. You just have to fight for it first. Love will always win…”
As quickly as thoughts of her father returned, they also vanished like a puff of smoke into the night sky. The sounds of footsteps on cement around the corner and out of sight, snapped her back to the present. She discerned that two people were approaching, noticing the clopping patter of four shoes pressing against the ground then rising back up in repetition. One set sounded heavy and assertive while the other was more light and timid. Biding her time for the past several years was about to pay off. The footsteps grew louder as the two individuals came nearer, and the prisoner knew it was finally time to face both her past and her future.
“Alright, Ms. Caulfield,” the warden nodded as he handed the photographer a stick-like device that reminded her of a Pez dispenser. She held it flat in her palm before moving it down and sliding it inside her pocket. The man looked more like ex-military than he did of someone who spent most of his time at a desk, the way she imagined. “That is a panic button. Make no mistake, you will be completely safe if you follow our guidelines.”
About thirty minutes earlier, Max had arrived at the prison and parked in the area allotted for guests. She walked in, was searched, then received a temporary name badge that was assigned to special visitors. An administrative staff member read through a handbook making special mention of media guidelines. “But,” he continued, “if somehow you feel threatened or uneasy, push the button on top and we’ll immediately be back in here. Do you understand?”
“G-Got it,” the brunette softly responded, hoping she didn’t appear as anxious as she felt. A second pill was necessary on the drive to the prison to help calm her nerves, yet a panic attack felt like it could bare its beady eyes at any moment. She checked her work email before leaving the apartment but refused to power her phone on after the way she left it with her parents the prior evening.
Two messages were waiting in her inbox; one was from Weston and the other from Maria. Her boss went on and on about the importance of this interview and how much her career would be impacted. Max still wasn’t sure how she felt about her boss after what her friend told her, but she hoped a similar situation wouldn’t present itself.
Her colleague just wanted to offer her some words of encouragement, which she was tremendously thankful for. The photographer couldn’t remember the last time she really had a friend. The older she grew, the more she regarded her parents as friends rather than authority figures, but it wasn’t really the same thing. It seemed the woman had taken Max under her wing, and she wished Maria was there to help guide her along the way. However, that wasn’t in the cards. She would soon be left alone in the presence of a convicted murderer with no witnesses.
Shit, Max. What have you gotten yourself into? ! You can still get out of this if you want.
“We’ve allotted thirty minutes for you to conduct your interview and take your pictures. Now’s the time if you have any questions, ma’am,” the warden confirmed.
Each breath became painfully intentional, and Max did everything she could to force air into and out of her lungs at a regular frequency. Her mouth felt dry so she swallowed hard and licked her lips in an attempt to moisten them and regain control of herself. She recognized that a full-blown panic attack was seconds away if she didn’t quickly work through her issues.
“Everything okay, miss?” the man asked, his voice littered with concern. For some reason, his last question offered her a sense of relief. When she considered what he was asking, she realized she was indeed okay. A chemical imbalance in her head was simply causing her to negatively react to the situation, and she could control her thoughts if she fought against her anxiety. Once defined, an understanding of what was happening washed through her body causing her muscles to release and her mind to be at ease.
“Y-Yes. I’m fine. Let’s do this.” The warden nodded and motioned for Max to walk with him down and around the twisting corridor towards their destination. The hallway seemed to transform from a metal bunker setting to more of a cave-like state. Besides the heartbeat in her ears, the clopping of their shoes against cement rang out and echoed in the distance and she knew they were closing in on their target.
As she entered the larger room that contained the prisoner’s jail cell, the visitor finally caught a glimpse of Jane. She was seated at a table, that looked too nice to belong there, in the middle of the cell with her head angled down towards her shackled hands which were resting on top. Max was led in, then she watched as the man who accompanied her shut and locked the door after stepping out himself.
“Remember, you have half an hour, Ms. Caulfield. We’ll be standing by.” The prison leader departed, vanishing around the same corner the two of them just came from. In the distance, the sound of a heavy door closing confirmed that she was now completely alone with a killer. The same one who specifically asked to be unsupervised with her; the girl who murdered a man in her own hometown.
Max turned around and slowly crept towards the vacant seat. She could only see the girl’s torso, arms, and the top of her head from where she stood. Scooting the metal chair in a bit after sitting caused a reverberating screech to howl throughout the chamber. “Oh, I-I’m sorry. I didn’t mean t-to…”
The terrified brunette was cut off by laughter coming from the other side of the table. She confusingly squinted at the girl who was still looking down, avoiding showing her face. “Holy shit, Max,” the prisoner giggled then coughed. She stopped and cleared her throat. “Of course you’d clumsily scrape the chair on the floor. You’re still a dork.” She coughed again. “Shit, I haven’t heard my own voice in a long damn time.”
That voice. It… It… sounds so familiar.
“Who are you and why did you ask for me?”
So much for slowly building up to my personal questions. Fuck!
“Well, Maximus…” the girl started. She dramatically inched her head upward, finally locking eyes with the photographer. “We have a lot to discuss.”