Alex and Jaime met as strangers at a support group in a nondescript part of London. Here, Alex describes their first encounter, as photographer Markn captures the couple's evolving love.
A crowd of us had flocked to Islington in order to come together in a nondescript place and talk about our condition. It was the first time I had come, and if I hadn’t have found myself living two minutes walk from the meeting grounds, I wouldn’t have bothered. I would like to say that my motivation for going was to discover new people with whom to share my pain, and to soothe theirs, but the reality was much darker. I went to feel better about myself. I went to remind myself of how fortunate I am, because although like them my life was marked by this condition, I knew I was one of the luckier ones who could pass through the world relatively unnoticed.
I arrived late, a new and curious face amongst the sea of regulars sat in a circle taking turns to speak. I put on a name-tag, and I took my place. I peered around the circle guessing each person’s story with a reassured smile hidden behind the mask of a neutral face… I was right. Outside, my world was crumbling yet again, but in here, I felt like a glorious vision of success amongst the dejected; I shone amongst those who could never attain the position which was relatively easy for me to acquire. I savoured that moment of deluded grandeur, all the time knowing I would be rightly smacked back into my lowly place.
The beating came quicker than anticipated however in the form of a girl sat several places to the left of me. When I saw her my breath quickened and my throat knotted. I was jealous. As a socially-feeble individual, I used my strange but not unpleasant appearance as a lure. It was a means of drawing people in to hold them hopefully long enough to discover that beneath my aloofness and stilted speech, there was a real person with passion and capacity.
More often it worked, and it seemed to be the only tool I had to navigate through a world which demands incessant human contact to survive and succeed. I held onto it. I valued it. I believed that at least in the context I had found myself in, I had the potential to be the brightest creature in the room, from far away at least and that my natural shyness would, through the filter of my features, be seen as enigmatic rather than repellent. But there she was, dwarfing my own brightness, totally eclipsing me. She was beautiful. She was too beautiful. How could she be one of us?
My eyes scoured the crowd gathered in a circle, all hunched over themselves, suffering, and looking for comfort. I saw myself in them. And yet, there she was, defiantly not suffering, but instead radiant amongst the defeated, serious but not sad. She was statuesque, and the spotlight of the winter sun through the windows desired to only fall on her. It caressed her satin hair framing her face with shades of auburn, and as it danced upon her, it illuminated her freckled silver skin. Sitting above her sculpted cheekbones were glowing eyes, which slowly moved in my direction, scanning past my mouth hanging in admiring bewilderment. A smile emerged from her plump lips, and she looked away. She knew she was beautiful…
Models Alex and Jamie.