The Photos I Didn’t Take

Well…this is freaky. Hope I survive the night. Staying in Queens Hotel, an old colonial building in Kandy, Sri Lanka. It was built when the British were colonizing, so it’s grand, architecturally out of place, and creepy (perpetuated by the fact that I’m in a single and the toilet just started making sounds).

We spent most of the day driving here (from the airport) and arrived just as the sun was setting. S’s dad pulled some strings so we would be able to get close to the Buddha’s sacred left tooth, a rare opportunity because only certain families have access (those that are responsible for maintaining the flowers).

After changing into white clothing at the hotel, we hurry across the street. A buzz is in the air as everyone walks toward the Royal Palace of Kandy. The edgeless clouds are a golden yellow with a beautifully blue backdrop. The grass is a deep green. The palace looks immaculate. I realize the moment described in words would sound cliche, so I pull out my phone to take a picture. 1% life. Death.

We are shackle-less slaves, yet for some reason, we choose to stay and obey. Sometimes more is needed. Sometimes we need to be kicked out — to have freedom forced upon us. My phone dying forced freedom upon me — from the preoccupation of documenting before even legitimately experiencing.

Over time, I will forget the golden shrine around the sacred tooth, the cloud of incense smoke rising into the night sky, the glass-walled room of candles, the moat water vibrating from footsteps, the intricate rafters, the herds of school children, but that’s ok. Memories can become more meaningful when left unrestricted of photographic documentation. Without the crutch, your mind is forced to ruminate, condense, and assimilate the experience. While details fade, what is left carries more potence. Tonight I was fortunate enough to not take any photographs.

Perhaps we should more often muster up the determination needed to free ourselves — whether for a minute, an hour, or an evening.

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