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where (part 4)


The package arrived on a shitty day, and somehow nothing else seemed to matter. Here were five rolls of Soviet film, carefully spooled into canisters by kind people in New Jersey, shipped to an address in Moscow and then into my hands. They seemed to glow a little, as I peeked into the envelope. I loaded a roll, the camera empty for days waiting for this moment.

There was a girl with a pink umbrella on wet streets that were bright as the sun poked from behind some clouds. There was a handful of street characters that were burning a fire in a lost corner of a park, behind a little pocket of trees the police would never see past. They shouted something at me that sounded like "paparazzo" or "photoapparat". I only took two shots through the bent and sagging fence that separated us. Better to keep moving.

There were two men digging a hole, one watching more than working. There were people behind a collection of dirty windows, making their way through a metro station. There was a foot bridge that crossed the railroad tracks where I could shoot straight down, at a lone worker in an orange suit.

It was all there, waiting for me.

Work was crazy, and I could not find a window of time to get to the lab. And then Friday came and I thought  - to hell with everything - and went with E as soon as I got her from school. We were in the metro and I thought to stop being greedy, just roll the film back up and have it ready. I was just passing 36 exposures and then I felt no resistance. Maybe they had put 40 in there, something generous - something I would definitely do in their position. And then, I pull on the rewind and it is just spinning, as if the film is ripped and all on the take-up side. My heart falls. I am swearing on the long escalator going down into the station. E cringes, then gives me a pat on the hand.
"Don't worry, Pop.' She says quietly.

We get to the lab and I just drop off some old rolls, from a different type of film and camera. Of course this film makes my head spin too, but it is not the new and special stuff, the shiny bright thing in my mind. On the way home, I ask myself - maybe it is a 24 exposure roll? Could it be? Did I really miss that? And then of course, I know that I missed that. Lost in that desperate excitement, lost in that stolen moment, the only type of creative moment I am familiar with, I lost track of the simplest things. I would probably forget my own name in this situation. I admit to E that I am a mess. She nods. I have taught her that I am not perfect, sometimes very imperfect. Somehow I think there will be no surprises later in life this way.

At home, I pull the camera into a light-tight changing bag, along with an empty canister. I shove my arms into the two holes that are ringed with elastic. Staring at the wall, I feel everything, navigating the rewind, opening the bottom of the camera, putting the bottom plate to the left. I wiggle my pinky inside. The film is all rewound, back in the canister already. Nothing on the take-up side. I feel around, checking and double-checking.

A long sigh.

The bag is unzipped, the film tucked into a special pocket in my bag. I load another roll in the Leica. Yes, it says 24 exposures on the side.

I think of those shots I thought I had, those three second love affairs, those marriages that went wrong. They are gone, a lie, a trick I played on myself, an unmarked grave.







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