Black Photo Curse

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I remember the day very well. I stopped the most popular girl in our church from humiliating the most unpopular social leper.

Everyone adored this worship leader of our church. To her followers, she literally walked on water. To me, Princess was a piece of shit who always went too far.

I didn’t even want to be at this choir retreat. But it was something to do, and when you’re a new mom to a fussy firstborn, you’ll grab any excuse for a break. In my case, it meant a weekend “camping” with a bunch of holier-than-thou, damaged strangers.

We were in a room practicing some worship songs for an upcoming service when Princess decided to take a photo of this elderly, overweight curmudgeon fast asleep. Nobody much cared for this older lady, who always complained about everything and couldn’t really sing. The running joke behind her back was that the worship leaders had to turn her mic off because she sounded so hideous. (Needless to say, Princess was the church’s prized singer, featured in almost every solo.)

Since we were all volunteers, well, you know the drill, everyone matters until they don’t.

Anyway, everyone in the room began tittering as Princess approached with her camera, beatific smile lighting up her golden face. Nobody said a word, until I spoke up, making it up as I went along.

“You don’t wanna do that. It’s considered bad luck to take a photo of someone sleeping.”

Princess paused, eyeing me curiously. “Really?”

My heart skipped a beat, walloping out of my chest. “Koreans believe it’s a curse if you do. It’s like stealing their soul.”

After a brief back and forth, Princess stood down. I don’t know if she believed in the old Korean wives’ tale, or she suddenly found herself in the presence of at least one level-headed person questioning her high school antics. But she didn’t take the photo.

Shortly after, the elderly woman woke up. Other choir members were quick to regale her with what almost happened, leaving out the detail about my intervention since I was considered persona non grata around here. Not quite a social leper, just invisible, the wife of a worship musician everyone revered.

You know how that goes.

To this day, I know nobody remembers or even gives much of a shit.

Princess wound up destroying a lot of lives since that choir retreat. But a lot of people played dead for her, smitten with her goddess aura and/or secretly terrified of her backlash — myself included, up to a point.

I never quite figured out if they laughed at the old lady or to please the princess of the holy wars. I just knew I couldn’t sit back and let even a minor humiliation like that go without speaking up.

Maybe one day I’ll have the guts to tell her to go fuck herself for all that she’s put us through in the name of feeding her endless ego. Until then, at least I did my part.

And no, I didn’t make up the Korean curse. It’s as real as this story.

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