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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …


We have been waking up in blue clouds of smoke. Even the closest landmarks are ghostlike from early morning. Throats thick with the taste of burnt rubber, noses edged with black residue we stare at each other.  It seems half of the country is on fire, and we are safe up here. We can cook three egg omelettes and drink the last of the cold juice from the fridge while the rest of the city goes to hell.

Your latest flowers are dying on a high shelf, but a smile is warming across your face. I washed the sheets and the towels, the rest of the house a mess, a war with flies, a cascade of toys and papers and jeans. You forgive me because I have a clean shave, and we are going out for dinner. Some jazz, a perfect table in a corner, grilled lamb so juicy it squirts across my plate and onto your shirt when I bite into it. La Galife, we will be back if only to see the drummer with mismatched plaid shorts and shirt making those faces, shoulders hunched, brushes swirling, staring at the back of the piano player's head.

We take a shower when we get back, leaving the lights off. Splashing cold water in the darkness, drinking great gulps from the faucet and spraying them on each other. Flopping around, half-wrapped in towels and then not.

Once again in the early, foul haze  I wake up to drink cold water.  I watch you sleeping, the curves of your body a map of sunlight - where it has burned into you, and where it has not. The orange towel loose and cool against you, I return to bed.

You are going away again, for two weeks this time.

I dream of an apocalypse. There are fat women entering the apartment from impossibly tall ladders. We are moving from room to room to keep away from them. The sky is on fire. We all hide in the bathtub with wet towels across our faces, you and E and me and the cat.

This morning there was a dead mouse in front of the elevator, when I went out to buy milk and cereal for E. The dead grass smells of chemicals. There are fresh flowers that were not there yesterday, planted by imaginary workers in the middle of the night. It seems nothing actually grows here, things just survive or are replaced. The street a gunmetal cloud, buses and bridges look more like monuments in the desert.

Later walking through a stretch of apple trees, I smell the sour green fruit  - now rotting and littering the sidewalk. There are workers repainting a black fence a few hundred meters from the white house. Why the fence needs painting, I cannot imagine. The fumes are intense, and only one of them wears a mask. The rest are leaning on each other, sweating in the late morning sun, staring into the blue smoke swirling around them, mouths full of gold teeth.

Sometimes when I am in bed with N we talk late into the night.
"It's too hot to sleep together." She might say, and I will laugh.
"But we just slept together." I might say.
"Ah, no I mean just to sleep together." She says.
"To sleep NEXT TO each other." I say, correcting her.
"Hmm." She says, her chin on my shoulder. "It means if we sleep together, we are not sleeping at all?"
"Something like that." I say.
"This is the curse of Babylon." She says, rolling onto her back. "This confusion of languages."
"It's just our pillowtalk." I say, pulling her back.
"A pillow can talk?" She asks, flashing her clever smile.
We are quiet for some time, just holding each other.
"Babylon pillowtalk." She says, whispering in my ear.


Anonymous said…
Some life. Beautifully observed. Don't stop.

Real r
Annie said…
I agree with Anon, as you already know. I've been thinking of you.... Russia is on the news and it hurts to hear it.
Anonymous said…
I am already hooked, keep going.

I can feel it, smell it, see it..

The gritty exhaust haze, the cracked cement, the dankness that not even scorching summer heat relieves...

The sticky closeness, the almost connection, unfolded laundry,
old plaster and bad wiring, acrid hallways, old wood doors, tight elevators.

Yes. Keep going.
The Expatresse said…
I see your book on Amazon!!!!!
Hi am also an expat and I have created a new forum for expats. Can you help get it started and simply join it. I like your blogs and thanks a lot. See

I am not sure if you have posted what you do..I am going back to your other posts, but haven't found it..

What grade will your daughter be entering next year? She is darling, just wish her other home was more like yours...

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