Audrey always had big dreams and a mind her teenage spiritual advisor called, “…unfortunately a bit twisted.” Her father bought her a very nice digital camera when she was at the end of her junior year of high school. A birthday present. The idea was she would use it to shoot family pictures and nature. And maybe make a little money. Audrey did some of that. It is not clear how she got adolescent boys to pose nearly naked. But she did and those pictures landed her in counseling sessions with her family’s spiritual advisor, a lay preacher who was supposed to have good intentions but really didn’t and was also not what he claimed to be. He was no compassionate healer of those beset by the Dark One. He told Audrey her pictures were the work of the devil and she must pray with him to drive the evil from her mind. He also let his hands wander as they prayed and, during Audrey’s third prayer session with him, attempted to rape her. Audrey was a strong kid. She wrestled free. His pants were down and she kicked. Twice. As he lay, curled on the floor, screaming in pain, swearing to kill her, she ran home. Her parents weren’t there so she called her father at his job and told him what happened with the “helpful preacher.” His response was not what Audrey expected: “I know what happened. He called me. He told me how you tried to entice him to sin. You are a possessed child who needs treatment. I will be home soon. Go to your room and pray for your soul.” Years later, Audrey still can’t believe what her father said. “It was insane. How could my father say such things? He believed that creep over me. All I knew is I needed to get away and as fast as I could. I grabbed my camera, some clothes, and all the money I’d been saving for my school’s class trip. And I got the hell out of there. I don’t know how I knew how to disappear but I did. I know they looked for me and reported me to the police as a delinquent. But I had just turned 18 so that probably went nowhere. Anyway, I had a couple of friends downtown who had an apartment. I hid out there for a couple of weeks. I had the good sense to ditch my phone and not use any credit cards. Anyway, some guy I barely knew offered me a lift out of town to New York City. I couldn’t imagine doing something like that today. Getting in a car with a near stranger and heading halfway across country. But I had a little luck. He was a sweetie-pie. And, yes, we slept together but it was because I thought he was cute and I wanted to. It was my first time. He was very helpful about the whole thing. And when we got to New York, he put me in touch with a friend of his who said she’d put me up if I could help with the rent. Two days later, I was delivering pizza and getting tips. And two months later, I had a job as a receptionist at a small advertising agency. The owner kept hitting on me but it was no big deal. The women in the agency protected me. And somewhere along the way, I started taking pictures of odd things I saw. When I showed my photos to one of the art directors, he went nuts over them. He set me up with a photo agency. I made a lot of money for them, always working on the side as a freelancer while I kept my job as a receptionist at that little advertising agency. I always figured it would all come to end and I’d need a regular paycheck. I was just this little kid from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with no real training. I figured someone is going to find out what a fraud I was and send me home. But they never did. I got picked up by a photo agency and they got me a bunch of work. 426 And then there was that show about my photos that was on national news. The local paper where my parents live made a “local-girl-makes-good-in New-York-City” fuss about it. Front page. My parents saw it. And the newspaper helped them get in touch with me. Lots of recriminations. It turns out that spiritual adviser had hit on a couple of other girls after me and got caught. Went to jail. Bastard. Served him right. After I was on the phone with my parents, listening to their crap, how I should come home and everything will be just like it was, I had enough. I told them, ‘I had a life and they weren’t in it. Goodbye.” And I hung up. Somethings you just can’t fix.
About five years after that, I got married. A nice Jewish boy. His name is Peter. He had the same sort of tussle with his parents I had, sort of. They were pretty upset when he quit college. He said it was a waste of time for him. He got a job in metal working shop as a customer service and sales person. They specialized in ornamental and architectural metalwork. He says he was very good at it. I think he’s right about that. Peter still works for the same company, although now he’s the owner and it’s a multi-million-dollar business. They get business from all over the world. So, his parents ended up being pretty pleased with him. They ended up being pretty pleased with me as well. Not so much at first. They tried. I wasn’t Jewish which bothered them at first. And they sort of freaked out when I told them about my family and how I ran away from home and how I never went back. I told them the whole story. I’m not quite sure about what Peter’s family made of it all. One thing for sure, they right away got the idea I wasn’t anything like any other girl Peter brought home. And I was pretty self-sufficient. Peter said like it or not, this was it. And both his parents did their best to be nice. And after a while, they really were. They took me in. Peter’s father said, if I wanted, maybe he could try to maybe smooth things over with my parents. His thought was, ‘OK, your father made a dumb mistake, but he’s the one who got you started taking pictures. So, maybe there’s something there. Who knows?’ True enough. Petey’s father was very nice to make the offer. But I still said no. I figured my folks would not take very kindly to this smooth-talking, big-time lawyer who happened to be Jewish. And mostly, I didn’t really want anything to do with them. But I have to admit I changed my tune a bit when the first baby came. Then, I figured what the hell, blood is thicker than water and all that crap. The reunion was nice but strained. They knew I was and am still pissed. I can’t help it. They believed that bastard preacher over their own daughter. That ain’t right. I still get furious when I think about it. So, anyway, I tried. But, in the end, I don’t owe my father or my mother a thing. And they know enough now to keep their distance. Sometimes my feelings about it all it shows up in my work. A dark tinge in photos that are supposed to be warm and happy. It sneaks in and gives the photos a little twist that sets them apart. Even in the family pictures I do for private clients. Once in a while you can see that little zing in my commercial work when I don’t edit it out. Companies making political or public service ads seem to like it a lot. It’s supposed to give their advertising an “authentic” look. But it shows up especially in editorial and artistic work. No matter what, everyone seems to know things are never quite what they seem.