Sarah was her name and that was the only thing I really knew about her. She drifted in and out of my life after a violent encounter with a dangerous man. She shot him for what he tried to do and I had no problem with that. He did not have a name but she wanted me to act as if I were him, to speak like him, to move like him. I had to do this if I wanted to know what really happened. I learned to feel rage at all times, to suffer a mixture of aggression and powerlessness. I came to grips with a constant dull hatred and used my fists to get what I wanted. In my sleep I ground my teeth in frustration. I took advantage of weakness in others. What little light there ever was is here now.
I found her standing by the side of a road in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I lived. I first saw her as I was driving by and pulled over to see if she needed help. At first she ignored me, and acted as if I wasn’t there. I repeatedly asked if she needed help but she just stared into the forest. Eventually she looked in my direction, made eye contact and without saying a word got into my truck. I got into the drivers seat and asked where she needed to go. Again she said nothing. I asked if she lived around here, knowing that there were no houses for several miles in either direction. She did not respond. I asked if she wanted a ride home but she still said nothing. I asked if she needed to go to the hospital and with this question she again made eye contact. But still she said nothing. Finally out of desperation I asked if she wanted to go to a bar and she said yes.
She said that if I let her stay with me and supported her that I could photograph her any way I wanted. I told her to be careful about that kind of offer and she said that there wasn’t anything that I could think of that she would not do.
She never left my house. I would leave for work around 7:00 in the morning. She would stay in bed. I don’t know when she got up. By the time I got home from work she was usually occupying herself, playing with my dog or reading one of my books. She never left the house or even made a phone call. As far as I know she had no contact with the outside world for the whole three and a half weeks.
One night after dinner she told me that she had to leave. I knew that this was coming and that there was nothing I could do to stop her. But she said she had a few more days. She had been with me for three weeks. Three days later I drove her to the spot on route 25C, where I found her. We didn’t talk much on the drive. I asked her where she would go and what she would do. She said she didn’t know but she would manage. I helped her with her bag and kissed her goodbye. She said she loved me. As I drove away I looked back. She was walking into the woods. The next day I went back, I had to know what happened to her. But there was nothing to suggest that she had ever been there, not even a footprint. I walked back into the woods for about a mile but it became too swampy to continue. I never saw her again.
She smelled like the forest after rain, with a faint hint of something floral. She told me what it was but I can’t remember any more. She had a lipstick called Trailer Trash. I made her put it on for the pictures. She also had a loose dress that looked more like a slip. She wore it most of the time.
One night we were out in the woods when the truck died. The carburetor had flooded and backfired, burning the air cleaner. I got the fire out with a blanket but we were stranded for the night. I thought our best chance was to sleep in the truck and hike out in the morning. It was cold that night, much colder than usual. She shivered all night and was cold to the touch. She had nightmares and woke up several times. I couldn’t sleep at all. At daybreak I got out of the truck to take another look at the carburetor. In front of the truck was a dead rattlesnake, it apparently froze to death in the night. I got a knife from the glove box and skinned the snake. I made a new carburetor float from its tail and used the skin for an air cleaner so we could get home. Sarah looked blue from the cold but she said she was fine. I tried to get her to go see a doctor but she refused. When we got back to my place she seemed to recover her color.
I made the mistake of telling her that some of my plates used to belong to my ex girlfriend Pearl. When I got home from work that night she broke half of them. She said that only half were actually mine.
I woke up in the middle of the night about two weeks after she left. I thought I heard her voice saying something. I got up and looked around in the house but she wasn’t there. But it smelled like she had just left, I could smell her in every room.
When I photographed her I became obsessed or even possessed. I didn’t care about her or even myself, I just wanted the pictures. I would have done anything I had to. I was cruel at times and I don’t know why she stayed with me. She never complained, even when I made her do things I know she didn’t want to do. Other times she would try to do things I could not photograph, thing which could not be represented. She said we were like crows, living off dead things and if we stayed together we would both rot.
Her eyes were grey. When she was cold they were an icy blue. Her lips had no color and so she always wore lipstick. Her hair was dirty blond and messy. Her hands were always cold. Her fingernails also had no color but were very clean.