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Todd placed his hand on her hip and looked her directly in the eye. They were in the back of an alley where water from last night’s rain dripped from the fire escapes into puddles that surrounded them. Taking directions from a recently-graduated art student wearing a beanie that looked like it was going to fall off the back of his head, Todd wondered how he found himself in this situation despite his incessant plea to avoid the cliches he’d seen his friends fall into in the past.
“Okay,” the photographer yelled to them while people walked by watching. “Now touch your foreheads together and look downward — don’t smile,” he demanded.
“Fuck,” Todd thought.
She took her iPad and pulled up a blog that looked like everything else Todd had ever seen on Pinterest. Todd knew this day was coming, but much like going to the dentist or moving, he had been suppressing his thoughts about actually doing it until it was too late.
“See, he’s, like, really good,” she said while scrolling through engagement photos from what appeared to be the whitest couples ever assembled. Todd feigned excitement but actually dreaded posing for unnatural photos in front of someone he’d never met before. Deep down, he didn’t understand the point of engagement photos altogether, but also knew that he had no choice in the matter. They couldn’t just not get photos done.
Realizing Todd had somewhat checked out of the conversation, she sat back over on the couch and kept scrolling by herself.
“Soooo,” she lead, “don’t kill me, but I think you should plan on bringing at least two outfits for the shoot on Saturday morning. I know you probably just want to wear a white shirt and chinos, but like, that’s not going to cut it.”
It wasn’t that Todd didn’t want to bring two outfits, but more that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If there was one thing he hated in life, it was getting photos taken of himself. Even the headshot for his firm made him anxious, so the thought of having to be a full-on model for an entire morning was a dark cloud hovering over him.
“I mean,” he pleaded, “do we… do we really need to make this into some big thing?”
“Yes, Todd,” she responded, clearly somewhat annoyed. “Like, why would you even ask that? Are you serious right now?”
“You know I just hate getting photos taken, babe,” he relinquished. “You know that.”
She reached over and grabbed his hand. “It’s okay, babe,” she promised. “It’s only two hours and this guy is, like, so casual and chill that it won’t even be a big deal. We can go out for brunch after and drink the nerves away, okay?”
Todd looked up after having his forehead touch hers for all of five seconds before telling the photographer, “You know, I’m not really down with this pose — can we skip to the next one?”
The photographer had moved in so close that Todd felt more uncomfortable than before. It felt like he was six inches away from their faces as he snapped away while they pretended to look longingly at each other.
“Todd, don’t be rude,” she snapped back at him while the photographer lowered his camera. “Just take a couple more like this and we can move on, yeah?”
He shut his eyes and tried to tune out the clicking that occurred to his right. After about three more clicks — all of which felt closer and closer — Todd finally opened his eyes and backed off of her. “I’m sorry, but this is so stupid — let’s do the next one.”
She looked at him with disgust before turning to the photographer and apologizing. “I’m so sorry, Trey, can we get a minute?”
“Trey” stepped away while assuring them that it was “no problem.” He pulled his iPhone out of his pocket to see how many Instagram followers he had gained since the session had started.
“Todd, what’s your deal?” she whispered under her breath.
He tilted his head back in annoyance before whispering back, “I just hate this — we’ve been out here for 45 minutes and I just feel like such a fucking dope.”
“Why?” she asked. Todd knew there was no right answer. “Is it that weird to be posing with the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with?”
“I mean,” he hesitated, “yeah, it kind of is.”
“Okay, well what do you propose we do?”
“Can’t we just go somewhere other than this cheesy alley and take some normal photos where I’m not spooning you publicly or where you’re strategically placing your hand on my shoulder so everyone can see the ring?”
It was just moments before this that hungover brunch-goers had stopped rubbernecking as they walked by. She was so frustrated that she could feel herself getting red in the face, something Todd could barely notice because of all the make-up that had been applied the shoot even started.
“Todd, thirty more minutes,” she begged. “That’s all I ask and then we can be done.”
“Fine,” he conceded. “Just thirty.”
“And he’s not cheap,” she further explained, “so we should probably stop bickering and keep taking photos so we get our money’s worth.”
She kissed him on the cheek and grabbed his hand, almost in a way that told him that everything was going to be okay. “Okay, Trey, sorry, we’re ready.”
He tucked his phone back into his skinny jeans and directed them to lean up against the brick wall, each with one foot propped up as if they were James Dean waiting to get a cab. Todd could feel the moisture from the night before seeping into his Oxford and feared having to change in the middle of the alley should they do any poses that required his back to be on camera. At this point, nothing seemed off the table to him.
“Trey, can you actually get one of us from the shoulders up?” she interjected, also feeling the moisture begin to ruin her dress.
“Yeah, sure,” Trey responded with a tinge of confusion in his voice.
“Sorry, I don’t want to be demanding,” she began to explain, “but I read that in order to submit your marriage announcement to The New York Times, you have to use a photograph from the shoulders up where we’re both at eye-level. Is that okay?” .