They might have ridden in the same plane, or passed one another on a busy street, but beyond that, the likelihood of their making one another’s acquaintance is slim to nil. And yet, here we are.
Lily is the assistant director of admissions at the same art school where she attended undergrad. She stayed for the same reason that probably most of us would – she loved her experience there, she wanted a stable job with health insurance in a field that didn’t make her skin crawl, she technically had access to all the facilities if she wanted to print photos or edit video or fire anything in a kiln, and she loved the city. Her life was good, she knew this. Simple, relatively uncomplicated especially when put in comparison with her friends, and steady.
One night about a year and a half ago, Lily was tasked at the last minute with officiating a Q&A session with alum with semi-atypical art jobs. Since she hadn’t planned the event, she didn’t know who was slated to arrive in the green room – she had a roster, she had head shots, but knowing artists and alumni artists especially, sometimes people forget obligations. 4 out of a confirmed 5 were there. Everything seemed like it was going to be fine, when suddenly a rather disheveled man with a oddly shaped backpack, intense grey eyes, and a smirking expression walked through the door and sat down on missing person five’s chair. He wasn’t on her list. He was, however, on someone’s list – he was an alum, he had told a colleague of hers he would try and make it, and something like ‘oh hey, I’m Ambrose. I’m a conflict photographer. I just got back from Lebanon, in town to see my agent and do this, nice to meet you…’
This was not ordered. This was not planned. Of course the students loved him.
This handsome smirking man with dancing eyes voluntarily went into war zones to ‘document humanity’ explained that, yes he’d been a landscape photographer, yes he’d been very into staged work, yes he’d shown work under a different version of his name in galleries and briefly was the talk of the biennial scene several years ago but told them when asked why he quit –“it wasn’t real. It wasn’t human. I realized what I was missing was humanity, and I wasn’t finding it within the white wall gallery scene, or within the art world anymore, and so, I took my cameras, and I took a dangerous flight, and I found myself surrounded by loss and yet, I also found myself surrounded by determined, selfless, real people – in a very strange way, in documenting war and conflict, I discovered a way to find and document love. And that’s why I do it.”
Ambrose is a noticer. Lily is also a noticer. Lily noticed. So did Ambrose. And so began a romance that many people call uncanny or odd – Lily, with her love of cats, her darling 1920s apartment, her British racing green BMW 2002 and her vast collection of vintage dresses and antique-inspired jewelry (unsurprisingly, a diehard Waxing Poetic fan), was suddenly making room in her life for a man who lived out of three suitcases at the very most, kept most of his life in a storage locker, and on a good day was headed out for a ‘low-risk’ assignment with National Geographic and on a normal day might be embedded somewhere for weeks with no contact and yet… Somehow it works.
A: “We see each other, I’m a difficult person, and I think people assume that since Lily is polite and well-mannered, she’s uncomplicated – but she’s fascinating! They’re wrong!”
L: “Ambrose seems beauty and hope in places I genuinely hope never to go – but he brings that hope back with his photos, and also, with his heart.”
A: ”There’s a kind of trust I’ve found in Lily that’s incredibly rare – not a trust built on faith (tho that’s fine), or some kind of blind, childlike trust, but…something that knows that I know that she knows that I’m always going to come back.”
L: “Exactly, which is why when I saw the POET BOAT CLEAT chain bracelet, it seemed perfect. Ambrose isn’t exactly one for non-functional accessories, but this bracelet was so masculine but also kind of tender in it’s design – the closure is a boat cleat, you know, what you tie your vessel to when you’re docking…but you’re still free…Somehow I saw this as a metaphor for where we are in this relationship right now, and I gave it to him and he loves it.”
A: “I do. And Lily, I love you Lily.”