spontaneous combustion: a photo set

Love is when the brightness of the sun makes her eyes close uncontrollably and floods the inside of her eyelids with thick, ubiquitous color. When translucent light caresses her walls and fills her room with shape-shifting shadows. Love. In the moment before fire engulfs a flower in flame, where a rose does not symbolize love or pain or promise, and love is simply love.

You are finite and she is the precedent of indiscernibility. She looks up at the sky and sees waves tossing and rolling restlessly against gravity. She looks down at the sea and it is purely nebula. She is the stretching, indeterminable distance between the two blues. She is that dense. And yet still expanding, her love like warm ocean water.

She picks you flowers and they wilt in the heat as if from physical exhaustion. She leaves them in a hot car because she doesn't care if they are alive or dead. She imagines the petals, soft and impenetrable like skin; she thinks about how much more beautiful they will look in your hands than they ever would have looked in the earth. You are a human vase.

Delicate yet indestructible, she is consumed by vulnerability. She lets you play God. Gives you the power to create or destroy her. But to you, she is merely a disciple. You said you wanted someone to love but you wanted someone to love you, the way people love religion- impersonal and distant affection.

Love is not a well-documented thing. But she speaks loudly, resoundingly, resurrecting intangible holiness from inside herself. Holiness unattached to her physicality- she is angelic in her mental state, in her openness, in her malleability. Her compassion cleanses the holy water you pour over yourself; she is your purification. Her body, a shrine.You try to keep her submissive by telling her it is all she is worth and that she will eventually wilt like a frail flower in winter.

You shudder at the thought of her flourishing, which fire does. The fire burning inside her- she thinks you ignited it, but it's always been there, yearning. You trace your finger in and out of the flame without burn marks. You remind her she is merciful as if her vulnerability is a weakness, as if her prayers are to you. If you extinguish her, suffocate her, drown her out, you will create darkness and silence.

Perhaps you couldn't feel her heartbeat or see how she was trapped between such a small space in her mind; her love for you had enclosed her once free and roaming thoughts into a suffocatingly simple space where she had to reflect on how infinitely changed her world had become since she knew you were in it.

And you don't love. And there is no word quite intimate enough to describe that type of lacking. To be without love is to have nothing. But you ask anyway, encroaching on empathy, emptily into the validating silence, for someone to please just love you without reciprocation. She does. She is the moment before fire engulfs a flower in flame. She is love and isolation. She is spontaneous combustion. ✉

article by: victoria barrios

visuals by: heeeun chung



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