The sun explodes in reds and yellows and oranges against a pale sky, and for a few moments our pace slows as though there is chewing gum dragging us towards the concrete.
And the urge is surfacing. I feel it itching it’s way to the surface, my neurons firing every signal they have at my twitching fingertips.
Go on, you know you want to, it whispers.
Don’t you want to look back on this moment forever, it coaxes.
One little picture can’t hurt! And i’m convinced.
And so with my phones camera lens I attempt to pluck this sunset right out the sky and keep it in my pocket like a precious stone. The brilliance will only last a few minutes but I am desperate to stall this unfolding of time. Outrun transience so that maybe expiration dates are something I can opt out of.
But the sunset knows full well that our efforts are futile. It has been watching for decades as we clumsily fiddle with contrast dials in vain. We watch the setting sun through a screen as we attempt to automate our memories, never really looking hard enough because iCloud replaces the hippocampus in the storing of memories. Left with only a .png to remember it by, maybe that’s why we’re consistently so astounded by sunsets. Because we never truly remembered them.
And so the sunset, humoured by our attempts, rolls it’s eyes further and further back, until eventually night falls.
And we will probably return home that evening, dripping in allegory as we reminiscence on the splendour of the sunset we just witnessed. And although no one asked, we might even pass our phone around to a visibly uninvested audience, sprinkled with same disclaimers we might annex to a new romantic interests Facebook profile, insisting that it is “much better looking in real life”.
Because the sunset always wins the dual; there is never a camera resolution that could have done it justice. It will always look a little bit flatter, duller, number that in the moment. Maybe because the camera was only facing one way. It never extended inwards to capture the feeling of awe, the sudden moment of dwarfing, the intense admiration for that which exists above and beyond us and after all, perhaps that was what we really wanted to share when we brandished our camera roll at the dinner table.
In our desperation to own this beauty, we cast our lines into the sunset, hoping this time, finally we might reel in the whopper that curdles the immeasurable distance between us and our object of desire.
How can I get closer?
If only I could fish it out the sky with a net, then I could jar it up like a shiny beetle and keep it as a pet. Capture, capture, capture, the arrogant human demands.
Or perhaps it would take being catapulted kilometres into the sky, until I can sit on the edge of that whispy blue cloud with the gold rim, sprawled across it like a sofa. If only I could make furniture out of the sunset and yet it still doesn’t feel like enough.
Because there is a niggling corner of my urge that simply wants to eat it. A juvenile desire to put that which is unknown into my mouth, understand it by passing my tongue over it, bouncing it off the warmth of my cheeks. And once it is moistened I will coax it down the rungs of my throat, whole, unchewed, preserved. And maybe only then, it’s glorious reds and purples and oranges living inside my belly, will it feel close enough.
And maybe that’s why we can’t stop taking photos of sunsets.