Tag Archives: photography

those two words are bullets to my chest, just friends 

5:00am July 14th, 2017

I let you sit on the inside seat. It always makes you feel safe, and I don’t mind the outside, nor do I mind sitting beside you. 

It’s something another friend commented on once to me in private. How you and I never sit across from each other on the metro, but always beside one another. I didn’t think anyone else was paying attention to us.. I didn’t think anyone else had noticed. The observation makes me wary about how we act in front of others, but only because I don’t know what the hell we are. 

But drunk at 5:00am in the morning, observations nor inhibitions really matter now, do they? 

You leaned your head against my shoulder and directed my attention to the window on your other side. 

It caught my breath, and a comfortable silence ensued between us. 

The sun was beginning to climb between the stairs of clouds – diligent dawn. I had never seen the Berlin sky this shade of blue, snippets of pink and orange piercing through the light. 

Finally our stop came, and I asked if you wanted to watch the sunrise. 

“Absolutely,” you said playfully, mimicking my voice I use to mimic our professor, “wouldn’t have expected not to with you.” 

So we climbed up the stairs to the platform, which overlooks the city. It is perhaps one of the best sunset spots in all of Berlin. Who knew it would also become a favorite view for the sunrise, too. 

I immediately leaned against the railing, both of my arms dangling over the top, after snapping a few quick pics. I wanted to enjoy this moment – a beautiful sky with a beautiful girl – a girl I wasn’t supposed to find beautiful. But that’s the thing about sunsets, right? Doesn’t matter if no one is watching, they’re still beautiful. It’s how I ultimately feel about you, too. 

You stayed a few steps behind me, taking your own pics. I let you do your thing without too much fuss. Nothing could pull my attention away from the one thing I love the most: the sky, in all its wondrous, mysterious forms. 

And then effortlessly you did something that broke my concentration. Your arms wrapped around my body and I felt the heat of your breath against the side of my face. 

Initially, it made me clench up – because it made me feel vulnerable. As physically affectionate as I am, even with friends, I don’t tend to let people hold me. It’s usually me doing the holding. I don’t know why, but I find it such an.. intimate gesture to let someone hold me. To let someone experience me this unguarded. To let someone make me feel safe – in a romantic way. 

I thought you were just going to hug me and let go, but you kept your arms linked around my body. It’s the closest we had physically been since I had tried to unsuccessfully kiss you a few weeks prior. 

Well, it was the closest I had let you get to me since then. In the weeks after our awkward half-kiss, I stopped being affectionate with you. Even as just friends, because I didn’t want to confuse myself with more mixed signals. I didn’t want to trick myself into thinking you liked me the way I liked you. And once I stopped initiating physical contact with you, well, then you started to take lead — and I will never understand women. 

So I let you hold me. I gave in to desire. I think you did, too. I leaned my head against your chest, and we stayed in silence watching the sunrise for a good 15 minutes. 
And in that minuscule window of infinity, nothing else mattered beyond the small magical world of us. Just you, me, and the sky signaling a new day. 

Then you loosened your grip from my body and also leaned against the railing, your arms also dangling over the top. 

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I see why you like it so much.” 

I moved my arm between the two of yours, and the tips of our fingers linked together. I knew I shouldn’t have – I had been resisting for the last few weeks to not touch you. But after being held by you, my mind kind of just said fuck it, you’ve just let this girl hold you, might as well enjoy it to the maximum. 

“I love it, so much. It’s always what I miss about home. The vibrancy of the colors. Do you know what else I love?”

You turned your gaze on me, the blue of your irises bright, while the white of your eyes a light shade of pink. Sunrise, looked like morning in your eyes. 

“What’s that?”

I turned my head to the side, to the opening entrance of the station. 

“Look at all the people who have stopped to see the sunrise, and all of them taking pictures. What I love is watching busy people stop to admire beauty, recognizing it, and acknowledging it.” 

I looked back at you, and saw you smiling at me, the sunrise steadily growing more business blue than passion pink. 

You and that ridiculous smile, with your ridiculously cute dimples that makes me feel like a ridiculous girl with a ridiculous crush. 

“I think the best part of it is over, shall we?” 

I nodded in agreement, and turned around to walk towards our apartment building. But not before feeling your hand slip between mine. 

It surprised me, honestly. I didn’t think we’d hold hands again. I thought our small moment of weakness was over. It felt too intimate for me, for us, for “just friends.” Or whatever the hell we were trying to be. 

But it also felt normal, comfortable, even. We are used to each other, physically and emotionally, as it seems. 

I’ve watched many sunsets with many people. It’s something I love to do with my loved ones. It’s always been so special to me. 

But this morning, I learned to love the sunrise just as much. It’s the first time I’ve deliberately watched it with someone. I’m having so many firsts with you. 

But I don’t know how long this lasts.. how long we last. 


Berlin, Germany 

3:17am

I thought of texting you last night 

“we are under the same sky, and yet, we see such different things, have a good night” 

and then it reminded me

you are on a journey 

that I am no longer a part of 

and that’s okay 

but 

hi, have a good night 

I can’t sleep 


Grütz, Germany 

sunset self-reminders 

in the end 

all that really matters is love 

who you loved 

how hard you loved 

how much you loved 

everything else is just secondary 

so love deeply and love often 

human connection is so important 

even if it hurts, it’s still worth it 

love will always be worth it 


Berlin, Germany 

collage

Why I Am Who I Am

“Happiness is best when shared.”

*****

Being the only daughter definitely has its advantage, but inside a car it doesn’t. My two older brothers always get the window seats, and yet again, I found myself squeezed in the middle of them in the backseat. They both had their heads leaned against the window, and were fast asleep. I didn’t understand how the excitement wasn’t keeping them wide-awake.

The sun was just rising; dawn steadily breaking the deep purple horizon. My parents animatedly sat in the front seat, holding hands, and singing along together to Total Eclipse of the Heart. My mom was in the passenger seat, thumbing through the map with her free hand, and my dad keeping his eyes on the stretched out highway.

We had about 12 hours to drive to the coast of Texas: South Padre island. Every summer we took a family vacation, and this year was my turn to choose the destination, so I picked the beach, I picked the sun, I picked the clear water.

*****

I watched you grow, while I withered. That is the life of a tree — your tree.
You used to sit on one of the thickest branches that extended out towards the sky, and climb to the top to pick my peaches. I’d watch you toss them down to your brothers, while gathered them for your grandma.

I’ve watched many human generations of your family.

The older you got, less time you spent with me. I think perhaps my roots adapted to this change of pace, as each passing year I developed less and less fruit.

But on the summer your grandmother passed away, you stayed in her house for the following month like you used to during childhood.

Time is linear, my dear child, but growth is not.

*****

“El huevón limpia doble.” (The lazy one cleans twice.)

*****

In May of 2012, I had just arrived home from my second year of university for the summer. I was halfway through my undergrad studies of Biology, and left uninspired and out of place. So I welcomed the idea of going home, of being around friends, and family — of feeling like I belonged.

The drive from my university to my small hometown in Texas is about a 9-hour drive through many different terrains, one I have begrudgingly learned to cherish. Long drives and music really have a way of clearing the mind.

When I finally arrived at home, it was midday. My mom would still be at the hospital working, and my dad just getting off. It didn’t bother me however, our empty house. I preferred it this way, having the alone time to unpack my things for my summer stay without the bombardment of questions from my parents.

While putting away my things, I heard the faint sound of my front door being opened. Getting up enthusiastically, I ran over to the living room to greet my dad and hug him. He smiled lopsidedly at me and kissed the top of my head, “It’s good to see you mija, home feels better with you here.”

My dad took off his boots and put away his things. He turned on the TV and I could hear the news in the background. This struck me as unusually odd; he never listened to this bullshit, normally he’d annoyingly be watching a sports channel. While I let the food simmer on the stove, I walked over to the livingroom and sat with him. Then I soon understood why he had it on the news, his focus was on his phone. I peered over at what he was concentrating on, and saw his scrolling through his sports app. Laughing, I snatched up his phone from him and stuffed it behind a pillow, “You can look at that later.”

His rubbed the scruff of his uneven beard, and looked at me playfully, the corner of his mouth curling upwards in his fatherly smile, “I’m hungry.”

In the background, the news anchor in his haughty voice announced, “North Carolina becomes the 30th state to ban gay marriage.”

It caught my attention, and I frowned turning my head to the screen.

“North Carolina is no longer a shadowy place Trinh, now we can go there,” my dad said smugly, in a terrible reference to a Lion King quote by Mufasa to Simba.

I turned back to him, surprised, speechless and with anger welling up in my eyes.

“Whoa mija, what’s wrong?” My dad cupped my face, and looked at me intently. I didn’t know where this reaction was coming from, or where my delicate courage came from when I managed to accusingly utter out, “Why shouldn’t I be able to get married wherever the hell I want?”

His facial expression registered from confusion to understanding to blind anger, his hands dropping from my face, as he engaged me in a stare down battle.

The doorbell interrupted us, signaling my mom being home. I was frightened; my impulsive revelation to the non blood related man I considered my dad couldn’t be taken back.

*****

I used to loathe the smell of your perfume, and all the ways in which this single scent could make me re-live an overwhelming amount of better off forgotten memories.

Our last encounter, two years ago, ended terribly. On Christmas night, after we had had dinner at your parents, you told me you were seeing someone else. Not only dating someone new, but fucking him too. My brain shutdown, a normal response to trauma, according to psychology. I melted into your evergreen colored couch shocked. I wasn’t sure what you were expecting my reaction to be. In truth, that moment was the closest I have ever come to sincerely hating you.

You sat beside me hesitantly, and hugged me, desperately trying to console me and soothe my anger. I flinched at your touch, and eventually let you — I didn’t have the mental capacity to stop you.

The smell of your skin wrapped around me. Deep and musky, with an underlying waft of lavender and vanilla. I concentrated on this, let it completely blind and intoxicate me. It was all I could do to hold myself together.

*****

My favorite picture is placed in a black frame. It’s my most prized possession, and has been everywhere with me. All the countries I’ve lived in, and all the lands I’ve travelled — this is always the one thing that comes with me.

The picture is of my mom and I. It’s one of the few pictures I have of us together — even more unusual, I’m actually smiling. Not making a dumb face or being silly, but genuinely smiling. I look happy. So does my mom.

I fear missing out on the people I love.

you are my person
i have loved you from the start
and until the end

*****

Whiskey amber surrounds your pupils, while a light evergreen shade makes up the outer layer, infiltrating the golden color. It reminds me of Sunday mornings in the mountains, where I would look up through the ocean of trees to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, while streams of bright golden sunlight pierced through.

My love for your eyes, overpower my jealousy. Out of all of us, you alone inherited grandpa’s light colored trait.

Maybe that’s why I always felt growing up, mom loved you more.

*****

“You have abuelo’s hands.”

Berlin, Germany

———————————-

I reaction essay I wrote at the beginning of my first semester for my Creative Writing class. It goes as follows:

There are seven different short exercises which will make up a collage of your life. It’s important for each exercise to write spontaneously; let the words flow out; just follow your pen; don’t censor, don’t judge. Don’t ask: did this really happen – assume that it did.

My teacher gave us 10 minutes to write for each prompt:

Describe a smell from your past.
Describe a moment everything changed.
Describe a car journey from your childhood.
Letter from a tree.
Describe your favorite photo.
Quotations from your past.
Describe a part of someone you love.