Have you ever loved someone so much that you can’t live without them? Loved them so much that every breath you take reminds you of how lucky you are to have them in your life? Like the wind sings whenever it carries their scent and blows it in your direction? I have.
I have experienced a savage love. A love so consuming that the blood in my veins runs hot.
Her name is Paris. Or rather her name was Paris.
Beautiful name, right? I met her five years ago. One of her friends – I forget her name – hooked up with one of mine. Those two then set out to fix us up, Paris and me. Meddling in our love lives and playing Cupid with our hearts. Paris and I went on a blind date, mainly to shut them up but we ended up hooking up ourselves. We had a wonderful three years together.
Of course, no relationship is without its ups and downs. I don’t claim to be a perfect person but Paris had issues. We talked about them a lot. Like, a lot. And when I say we talked about them, I mean we had arguments. Big messy arguments. We broke a lot of things when we were together – phones, laptops, TVs, furniture. Anything we could get our hands on when we were mad was fair game. But oh how I loved her. How her eyes filled with fire when she yelled, the bounce of her hair as she cussed me out. How red the tops of her ears got and the way she gnashed her teeth at me. Pure passion. When we made up the fire consumed us. As I took her body with my own, on the floor, on the table, on the bed, our hunger for each other was insatiable. The noises we made still linger in my thoughts like petrichor on a rainy day. They fuel my imagination whenever I feel lonely.
How I miss those times. Everything was perfect then. Well, not perfect but good. It was 80 percent heaven, 15 percent hell and 5 percent everything in between.
Then Paris decided to break up with me.
It was Valentine’s Day. Who breaks up with someone on Valentine’s Day? I had scoured town for the perfect gift – a rose gold necklace she had seen on one of our strolls that she said she had to have. It cost me a pretty penny but what is money compared to the satisfaction I would get from her smile? I planned the perfect dinner too. See, I was hopelessly in love with the girl. So in love in fact that I almost bought a ring. Almost. I took her home after dinner and started making moves on her. You know, those moves but she stopped me and asked me to have a seat. Then she said, “I can’t do this anymore.” That she did not feel fulfilled with me. That she had to explore what was out there before she could settle down.
I was furious. There she sat, the love of my life, a new rose gold necklace around that dainty little neck barely kissing the top of her bosom, saying she wanted to leave me. Leave me? Oh no. No!
So I said, “You’re not going anywhere. You clearly drank too much tonight. Let’s just go to bed and we’ll talk in the morning, okay?”
See? See how composed I was? Holding back the anger in my voice and giving her the chance to come to her senses? But did she listen? Did she?
“I’m not drunk,” she said. “I’m leaving tomorrow. Faith has offered to let me stay at her place until I get settled.”
And that’s when it happened. I lost my shit.
I never planned to put my hands on her. I guess no one ever really plans to hit anyone. It was a spur of the moment thing. A crime of passion. I don’t even remember most of it, all I recall is there was screaming – most of it from her and some of it from me. And there was blood – not much but all of that was from her.
Paris left the next day and I tried apologizing to her for two years.
It’s hard writing all of this down, but I feel a certain catharsis. I hope you can sympathise or empathise or whichever thise you’re supposed to feel. All I want is the chance to say my piece.
Anyway, I tried to apologize to the girl I love… Loved. She would have none of it. See, I had destroyed her trust. Utterly shattered it and that shattered me. I was a wreck in those two years, crying every day like a mad man. Like a wolf howling at the moon except I did it in my bathroom, sitting in the tub and gorging myself on potato crisps. Then I would remember that Paris loved crisps and I would wail some more.
Eventually, I cried less and less and I figured she had moved on. She had blocked me on everything of course but there were always ways to find out how someone was. I saw a picture of her online and she looked happy and I was happy for her. Truly and genuinely happy.
So I let her be and lived my life. I got into photography and started my own business and it took off. I was busy every weekend shooting a wildlife shoot, or a wedding or a magazine thing. I kept so busy that most of me forgot about the girl. The one with the wild eyes and fiery temper. Still, whenever I got lonely, I had my petrichor.
But imagine my surprise when one day while on a shoot for a magazine, I got a phone call. From her.
“Hi, Alex,” she said.
Her voice put me in a trance and I stared so hard at the model in front of me that she became self-conscious and retreated into herself, her confidence slowly slipping away. She was like a snail with no shell. I apologized to her, she was a nice girl, she’d probably be on runways all over the world if the world was kind. When this is made public she will remember me. If you can, ask her about that day the creepy photographer stared at her. Her name is… shoot, I can’t remember her name but she had short hair back then and she had dyed it purple.
“Yes, it’s me.”
I set my camera down and slid down a wall into a squat. The words in my mouth just sat there at the back of my tongue. I did not know what to say. So I said, “Hi.”
“Always had a way with words, didn’t you?” She giggled and I smiled at that.
“Only when it came to you,” I managed to say.
For a long time, a silence so long sat between us that I thought she had hung up but she was still there.
“I wanted to ask you something. A favour,” she said.
“Anything,” I jumped in.
“I need a photographer and I hear you’re the best.”
I smiled. She’d been following my career. “I’m not sure I’m the best.”
“Of course you are. I’m looking at samples of your work right now and it’s breathtaking.”
“I’m flattered. What do you need a photographer for?”
She hesitated before she said, “A wedding shoot.”
“Oh. Okay. I’ll just need a date and the bride and groom’s contacts so we can make the necessary arrangements.”
There was another silence, and in that silence I knew, I knew that she was going to say something that would break me. “Alex?” She said.
“Yes?” I said. Don’t say it, Paris. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. That was the loop in my mind.
“I’m the bride. I’m getting married.”
And with that, she broke me. She broke me and she scattered the pieces to the wind and from somewhere deep inside me, a wellspring of blackness sprung forth. Blackness and thoughts I could not… cannot even begin to describe to you.
“Congratulations,” I said and as I said it I heard no pleasantry in my voice. It was the voice of a bitter old man. I said it two more times, each time clearing my throat as if that would somehow restore my voice. Just so you know, it didn’t.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you mad?”
“Why would I be mad?”
“I still need a photographer,” she said.
And then I thought about how complicated this whole thing was. Well, it wasn’t that complicated, was it? My ex-girlfriend was someone’s fiance and she wanted me, her ex to photograph them when they became husband and wife. I should have said no. I should have hung up and blocked her ass. But heaven help me, I still cared for Paris. I would have jumped into a cave full of scorpions for her.
I said, “Sure. I’ll just have to meet you and your husband-to-be to iron out the details.” And to see her so I don’t freak out during the shoot. But I didn’t tell her that.
Two weeks before my ex-girlfriend became someone else’s wife, on a cool Monday afternoon, I met him. The one who stole her from me. His name was Simon. He was a good looking man – tall, muscular, chiselled jawline, he walked with an air of confidence, and he smelled nice. He was nice too. And rich. Paris had landed herself a catch and she seemed… happy. I was happy she was happy. And he was happy to have a photographer. Apparently, that was the last thing on their list.
Simon did not seem to know who I was to her though. Or if he did, he hid it well.
“We’ve been looking at your portfolio,” he said. “I love your wildlife shots.”
Of course, he did. Rich people loved the exotic stuff. “I’m glad.”
“So what we want is an incorporation of the wild in our pics. We’ve hired out the crocodile park and we’ve requested that we get to feed the big one. That pic should be awesome.”
“Crocodiles?” I looked at Paris.
She smiled at me and said, “That’s where we met. I was leading a tour and he and his friends got to feed the crocs.”
“Crocodiles?” I said again.
“Crocodiles,” Simon said. “The big one in particular. Its name is Big Momma.”
“Okay. Anything else?”
“Other than that, feel free to flex your camera muscles. We trust your eye,” Paris said.
And that was that, until Paris came over to my studio the next day. She was dressed in a black dress, her braided hair tossed over one of her shoulders – she wore it like a scarf. Yellow accessories gave her a pop of colour – the bangle on her right hand, the tiny belt around her waist, the poofy balls on her heels. She stood with her back against the door and her hands in front of her like a girl in an anime. She wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.
“Hello. We don’t have a meeting today, do we?”
“No. I just wanted to see you for a bit.”
Then, I kid you not, she jumped on me. Practically lunged herself at me like a leopard upon its prey. I caught her in my arms and she planted a kiss on my lips. I was overcome. My Paris was kissing me again and with her hands, she started undoing my shirt.
“What is happening?” I managed to breathe out.
She shushed me. I set her down on her feet and her hands moved to my belt. Mine moved to hers. In what seemed like seconds we were both bare before each other. She looked as beautiful as ever and I was ready for her. As ready as I ever would be.
We came together twice. No, three times before either of us said another word.
“That… was incredible,” I said with the biggest smile.
“It was,” she smiled back. And we lay there on the floor of my studio, staring up at the lights in the ceiling. In my mind, I wondered what all that meant until she told me. “I had to get that out of my system.”
I turned to face her. She was still staring up. She had the most beautiful profile. “What?”
“When I saw you yesterday, all these feelings… welled up inside and … I wanted to get rid of them before I began life with Simon.”
What in the actual hell? “I see.” I got up and started dressing. She used me. She. Used. Me! Oh my gosh! There was the blackness again and this time it covered everything inside. Every memory I had of her drowned in it. Every thought. My petrichor. All of it vanished. Paris started to say something else but I cut her off, “I think it’s best that you leave.”
She hesitated before she started to dress too. As she was leaving she turned to me. I knew what she wanted to ask. She wanted to know if she still had a photographer. I said, “We signed a contract. I won’t back out of it.” She seemed to calm down after that but then her breath caught. “I won’t tell Simon.”
She let out a sigh of relief then she left.
I wouldn’t tell Simon, but I would do something.
I did not know what that something was until two days prior to the wedding. I went out scouting at the crocodile park, looking for the best angles to shoot from. I talked to a couple of guides who told me how the animals were fed. I wanted to know how Big Momma was fed in particular.
The guide, Ochola was his name, told me that for her they tie a piece of meat, mostly a goat or a pig leg on a string and dangle it over her pond from a raised pier. Big Momma would then rocket herself out of the water, jumping almost seven feet in the air, and snatch the meat before dropping back into her pool to finish it off.
“She hasn’t been fed in three weeks though,” Ochola said.
“There’s a couple who want to get a photo of the feeding for their wedding. If Big Momma is full she wouldn’t perform for them.”
“So she’s hungry then?”
“She is. But crocodiles are resilient. They can stay months without food.”
“Interesting. Tell me more.”
Ochola told me a lot.
The night before the day of the wedding, I went back to the crocodile park. Ochola let me in. I told him I wanted to set up for the big day. I brought with me a couple of glitter cannons that I wanted to incorporate in the photo. Glitter cannons I rigged with tiny explosives.
You’re probably thinking, Where’d he get those? Well, I know… knew a guy.
So I went to the pier, and what I did before placing the cannons, I’m not proud of. I can say right now that I wasn’t thinking clearly but then, the blackness had taken over. With a tiny hacksaw, I cut into the sides of the pier just deep enough to compromise its structural integrity. The glitter cannons would do the rest. It should have been harder than it was but it surprisingly wasn’t. Luck was on my side, or perhaps the devil himself.
I also took out a raw sausage that I had in my bag. I had pumped it with coffee. I hoped the caffeine would excite the beast. If that wouldn’t work I also put in a couple of Ecstacy pills in there. I needed Big Momma awake and alert and luckily she was hungry.
Simon and Paris got married in a grand cathedral. She looked stunning in her white gown. How I wish she had worn it for me instead of him. Simon had a black tux. He looked nice too. They photographed well together, the two. Their smiles lit up their pictures and they looked happy. I was happy for them, really, I was. The blackness was not. The blackness did not care one iota about their happiness. The blackness wanted blood.
Soon we were at the park, taking photos before their big reception. A couple of the bridesmaids and groomsmen came with us. After a number of shots with them and the bride and groom, they stood behind me from my vantage point and watched as Simon and Paris climbed the pier and received instructions on how to feed Big Momma. Simon held a pig leg out over the edge of the pier and I took a photo.
I saw Big Momma emerge from her murky depth. She looked like a log floating along lazily but her eyes watched and calculated. Simon and Paris beamed at the camera. I took a photo.
Paris grabbed her husband’s other hand and waved in our direction. Then she gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. The bridesmaids behind me cheered. I took a photo.
Big Momma leapt out of the water almost soundlessly. The look of wonder on Simon and Paris’ faces was stunning. I took a photo. I have to say, it was a beautiful shot.
Then I set off the glitter cannons. A shower of glitter surrounded the couple as Big Momma leapt past the pig leg and latched onto Simon’s extended arm. I took a photo.
The smile on Simon’s face turned into a grimace of pain and confusion. The smile on Paris’ face disappeared. I took a photo.
The glitter cannons went off again. This time with an explosive bang. The edge of the pier where Paris and Simon stood collapsed and gravity pulled them down with Big Momma still holding on to Simon’s arm. I took a photo.
The bridal party behind me began to scream bloody murder. The bride and groom landed in the water with a splash. Big Momma opened her jaws and clamped them down on Simon’s head. I took a photo.
Paris screamed as she struggled in the water, her once ornate white dress now greenish with flecks of red from her husband’s blood. Her dead husband. I took a photo.
Big Momma dragged Simon’s body to the depths of the pool. Paris struggled to keep afloat. Her water-logged dress kept her from swimming. Then suddenly she too was pulled down under and she stayed under until the turbulent surface of the pool became still once again. One glitter cannon went off and I took a photo of the glitter falling on the water.
It all went perfectly and the photos turned out great. Now as I stare at these pictures, I can feel that the blackness is almost satisfied. It will soon be satisfied though, I just have to do one more thing.
Alexander Kava, famed wildlife and fashion photographer, was found dead on June 8, 2020. Neighbours reported Kava missing for three days when police subsequently found him dead of an apparent suicide. Kava had slit his own throat in his studio. He left behind a note and some disturbing photographs linking him to the death of a couple on their wedding day. Kava was 32.