Rey became an addict long ago. She needs to dissect the world into a series of camera clicks. It allows her to have control, to interact with the undying mystery of the universe. Rey understands the world through a series of snapshots. Whenever she prowls through the streets with her Canon, she notices the serendipitous pleasures the world offers. Every time she adjusts the settings and takes the picture, her heart pounds and her face flushes. Her fingers itch to press down on the plastic button, while her ears await the click of a camera. Rey’s mouth may be capable of forming words, but she chooses to speak through her photos.
She usually only pays vague attention to her Instagram account, since she chooses to focus more time and energy on her blog, but when she sees the alert today she chooses to click on it: Kylo_Ren started following you. With a grunt she taps the darkened name. In seconds his profile loads and his photos take her breath away: hard lines, metallic sheens, long-exposures, blurs of crimson, playful shadows.
His pictures have a mysterious charisma that draws her in and leaves her craving more. She wants to understand the man behind the camera, yet his photos reveal so little. He seems to push the world away with each picture; they all hold a metallic coldness that leaves her brushing aside goose bumps. Almost instinctually she likes one of his pictures from a few weeks ago: a sliver of the moon reflected through the cool glass of a skyscraper that reaches for the sky like Icarus above a stream of reds, oranges, and yellows. She glances up, wondering where he found such an impressive sight. Ah, New York City, of course: a city of glass and hubris that never sleeps. He captured the city’s personality in a single photo. The thought causes her gut to twist and knot like a hungry snake. Breathless, she follows him back.
A week later she notices a DM on Instagram and with a shrug pokes the alert. In seconds the photo loads. She stares at it, blinking the clouds of sleep from her eyes in a vain attempt to make sense of the gleaming lines before her. She pulls herself up and slouches against the pillows while trying to force her hand through her tangled trusses. Rubbing her eyes, she looks back at her phone. She’s staring at the reflection of the sun caught in the corner of a chicken wire fence and the swaying shadows that appear woven together like a spider’s web.
Glancing at the sender, her heart stutters: it’s Kylo_Ren. She revaluates the picture and gaffs. The photo practically oozes with his presence. She has to hand it to him, he certainly has a distinct and inimitable style: all angles, shadows, reflections, and metal. His art seems to push the viewer away for trying to understand the man behind the camera, but those angles and reflections feel like a playful jostling instead of pure mockery.
In answer to his consistent use of metal and nonorganic substances, she decides on one she’d taken back in Rome: a performer embraced by the yellow halo of a street light and bent over his guitar. His passionate gaze towards the instrument counterbalanced with a gleeful smile reminiscent of a young child at Christmas. Her photo lacks Kylo’s illusions and trickery. Instead, it gives off a sense of sincere warmth. She concludes that both express a hint of playfulness though and with a gulp sends him her photo. Her stomach burns with dread, but she shrugs off the sensation. Stretching, Rey gets out of bed and shuffles to the kitchen for breakfast.
The next morning, she awakens to another DM from Kylo_Ren. Her heart races and she practically jumps out of bed. Only to bang the crown of her head on the sloped ceiling of her airbnb apartment. She sighs to herself and rubs the familiar, smarting bump. She needs to start remembering that this place has that low, climbing ceiling due to being on the top floor or some such reason. Stumbling to the kitchen, Rey turns on the kettle, spoons some coffee into the French press, and proceeds to cram baguette into the toaster. Finally, she rewards herself.
He captured Brooklyn Bridge at sunset from a bird’s eye view. The reflection of the crimson light upon the river below turns the wavy waters into rising flames. it glints and paints the bridge scarlet. Everything appears aflame. She ponders the picture, searching for meaning. Finally, it hits her: he’s burning his bridges.
Her stomach clenches and her heart races. Her mouth waters at the thought of forgetting her past and letting it all burn. For a few precious seconds, the invisible boulder that sits on her shoulders seems to roll off of them. But then her fingers dance along the tell-tale raised white marks on her hips and stomach. She bites her lip and sighs. A blank canvas appears beautiful due to its potential, but only one marred with paint can earn the title of masterpiece, she tells herself. Prying her baguette out of the toaster, she realizes that its already cooled and she swirls to grab some butter and currant preserves. Rey devours the sticky treat, cleans the kitchen, and runs to grab her laptop, external hard drive, and the SD card she’s currently using. She needs to look for a reply.
As she plugs her hard drive into her laptop, Rey’s mind journeys to the past.
Seventeen with a busted lip and a black eye, she stood along the dusty road with a salvaged card board sign and her thumb pointed up like some hopeful prairie dog with all of her worldly belongings lovingly folded up in her ratty backpack. Rey remembers laughing and reminding herself that at least this time she had a real backpack, instead of just another garbage bag.
She spent most of the morning trudging along the desert road in a desperate attempt to get as far away from him as she could before she finally let herself stop and wait. Eventually, a car paused and Rey slipped in before the driver could change his mind. Bruce Springsteen belted from the speakers of the man’s beaten up VW camper van and he’d turned to her with a mischievous glint and a smirk, which evaporated when his eyes focused on her face. Wordlessly, he slammed the door shut and stomped on the gas. Rey couldn’t hold back her oxymoronic emotions: the gleeful laughter and melancholic tears.
Han Solo drove the getaway car. His gruff manners and grunting dialogue acted as an odd balm. He never asked how she got beaten up and she never questioned him as to why a sixty-year-old man tore through the desert with only his dog and a constantly vibrating phone in the back seat.
They finally stopped at a gas station half an hour after they’d whirled passed the emerald Welcome to California sign. When Rey rushed out to use the restroom, she practically trembled from fear. She barely washed her hands and sprinted back to his car. She nearly sobbed when she noticed its distinct absence.
Then she felt a calloused hand on her shoulder and as she turned she saw Han with his tell-tale smirk offering her a greasy, gas station hot dog, Lay’s, and water. She hugged him then. He nearly dropped her chips, but then slowly wrapped his own arms around her. Rey can’t remember hugging anyone before Han. It made her stomach churn at first, but then she felt oddly warm and her tensed shoulder relaxed for the first time in what felt like years.
They sprinted through the California landscape in the Falcon, as Han jokingly referred to his car. Rey hummed along to the never-ending Bruce Springsteen soundtrack with one hand out the window. Sometimes she closed her eyes and imagined she had wings as they flew along the asphalt racing to nowhere in particular. After a few days of near silence, her throat shrank from disuse. When Rey spoke, she’d have to clear her throat in order to get the words out.
She wondered what caused a man like Han to run. His restless fingers tapped out unknown rock anthems on the steering wheel and some glint in his eye stirred her stomach from the wildness of it. When she looked into those nearly feral eyes, she wondered if this man even knew how to stop running.
When they rested at gas stations, she noticed him hunched over his cellphone on a few different occasions. Each time, his hand rubbed the back of his neck, leaving harsh red marks. He kicked at the asphalt and she’d hear him practically growl at the phone. The first time, Rey slinked away. Her mind flickering to another time with a different man. She almost walked away that time. But then she saw how Han stroked Chewie, his massive mutt, and she stayed. The second time, Rey heard a female voice coming out of the phone. She couldn’t make out the words, but the love and desperation in that voice sounded like the opening chord to a song Rey longed to remember, but couldn’t quite grasp the melody. That time she didn’t speak.
They eventually wound up in San Francisco. They drove across the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise and the city appeared before them: some blurry, rose colored paradise. Han passed her a napkin and she swiped the traitorous tears out of her eyes before grinning back. Han peeled off the road and they stretched their legs at some park soon after. She saw his hands shake as he hit the buttons with a well-worn sort of familiarity. After a few rings, the woman who left Han all those messages seemed to pick up, and Rey couldn’t stifle her laughter as she heard Han get chastised like some misbehaving child. After the call, Han handed her Chewie’s leash and then turned and strolled down the path. Rey looked at the mutt, and then walked the other way with Chewie at her heels.
While they sat in some independent coffee shop pondering their drinks and picking apart their pastries, Han finally spoke. He talked about a life back in New York City with a workaholic wife whom he loved, but whom he constantly fought with and a son so used to being ignored that eventually said son just left without a note. Han laughed bitterly at that point, shaking his head and tearing apart the lemon pound cake set before him. He chewed on his words, slouched, then looked up at her with a grimace before admitting that he blamed himself.
Han spun a tale of a dashing young man addicted to the adrenaline high of flying through a sky filled with enemy fire. He explained how tantalizing and infinite one felt when defying death on a daily basis. He told Rey how his love for his wife bloomed from the passionate arguments and biting words. He loved her like someone loves a rose: a beautiful sight that left his palms aching and bleeding, but his nose aching for another whiff of that scent. His eyes gleamed and he ran his hand through his hair roughly. Finally, he looked up at her.
“I’m an addict, kid.” Rey’s eyes narrowed. “I can’t stay still. I can’t stay put in one place. I get trapped. I feel caged. I need that rush, kid. I need to have the controls in my hands as I swoop through the sky and hurtle towards doom with a smile. I can’t… I’m not…” Han sighs, “No one wants a father like me. Poor, kid he always struggled. The kid gets so locked up in his head. He overthinks everything, like some sorta masochist. He needed people to listen and to talk. But I’m… I’m not usually the talking type.”
Rey notes the tears wavering in Han’s eyes. She bites her lip and forces a smile.
“There are worse things to be addicted to,” she says. Han just laughs bitterly with a quirked eyebrow.
“You an addict too, kid?”
Han shuts up and looks at her then. He sighs and runs another hand through his hair.
“I’m going back. You coming, kid?” A lump lodges in Rey’s throat and her eyes prickle. She pushes herself up from the table and out of the coffee shop. She won’t cry in public. As she stumbles outside, she feels the first faint drops of rain. Biting her cheeks, she turns back to Han and nods a jerky yes.