Caroline fidgeted with the tassel at the top of her cap leaning down across her forehead. “Please, Mom,” she said, shutting her eyes as she felt around for the limp white threads that made the tassel. “I can call my own shots now. You can’t do this anymore–“
Her mother’s camera flashed once again. It made Caroline jump a little by instinct even though she couldn’t see the camera’s light. Years before she had once believed she would get used to the harsh flash coming from the camera, but now she knew she never would.
“That wasn’t such a good one,” her mother said. “You blinked. Let’s try–“
“Mom.” Caroline tore the black cap from her head and held it as if she were about to hurl it across the room at her mother. “You need to go to therapy, you know that?”
“As you’ve said.” Her mother snapped another picture as she spoke.
“Why can’t you take pictures of something else? Like . . . like flowers. Or birds. Cute little sparrows and finches. Like normal people do.”
“Do you want to be normal or extraordinary?” Another flash of the camera.
Rolling her eyes, Caroline replied, “If being normal means not being an obsessive freak in front of my friends and family, then yeah. I’d take that over being extraordinary.”
On the coffee table near Caroline, her phone buzzed. Bending down, Caroline picked up her phone and read aloud a text her friend Laura had sent saying that she, Laura, was already at the high school’s arena.
“For crying out loud,” Caroline said, looking at her phone’s clock. “We’ll be five minutes late even if we left now.”
“So? We’ve got time.” Caroline’s mother zoomed her camera lens in to take a picture of her daughter’s lit-up phone at that moment.
“Did you even listen to what I just said?”
“Yeah. You said we’ll be late. I guess that means we can skip your ceremony, then.” Click. Click. Click.
Nostrils flaring, Caroline strode over to where her mother stood and flicked the camera from her hands. This had happened before. But for the first time, Caroline didn’t let her mother retrieve the camera. Instead, Caroline stuck a foot out and kicked the camera across the living room. It smacked into one of the walls before tumbling down beside the doormat.
Caroline and her mother exchanged glances.
They stood there, staring at the camera’s cracked and spilling remnants. Caroline thought back to the Christmas party the year before when her mother had told her there were seventy-two thousand images saved on the camera (dozens of tiny SD cards aided with storage of so many gigabytes), and that her goal for the new year was to get to seventy-five thousand.
“It’s–it’s broken, isn’t it?” her mother asked.
Caroline gulped. She crossed the room and inspected the cracked camera remnants. The lens looked up at her. Wondering if an apology to her mother was due, Caroline took her cap off and placed it as neatly as she could over the smashed contraption.
A hollowness, as if a vacuum had whooshed out her being, began to creep into Caroline. At least, that was how she felt. Looking at the camera, she couldn’t believe how much of herself she’d outsourced to that tiny machine with a sparkling flash and a whirring zoom lens.
“First thing I’m going to do when I start in the fall,” she said. “Is get a job. Then with the first paycheck I get, I’ll buy a new one for you.”
Again she closed her eyes. If her mother made a reply, she didn’t hear it. The visible world had been spinning around her, and if she wasn’t careful, she risked vomiting from dizziness. Caroline wondered what life, even if was just a summer long, would be like, knowing that there was no record that she’d ever lived before.