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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

Ouroboros


The city feels like a windowsill full of dead flies. Yes, the sun still pushes through the trees and long into rooms, fingering the edges of tables and piles of dusty books. The trolley buses lurch up and down the empty streets, all clanging metal and thick layers of paint that fall off like shingles. I used to take pictures of makeshift ashtrays left in the corridors, typically a certain can of peas painted with grey ash. The elevator doors bang open, empty. There are low voices in the stairwell, and the shuffling of feet in slippers. The snake is eating its own tail, day after day here. But does it really reinvent itself each time? Does it change at all after dying and being reborn? 

A man sleeps on a bench. The Leica is hanging loose by my side and I decide I will take one more picture of a drunk, his red cheeks dappled by the leaves moving in the breeze. A giant truck rumbles past, spraying water on the street. They do this here randomly, even spraying water when it is raining. I do not pretend to understand anything about this place any more. The man does not flinch, even as some of the spray reaches his sweaty hair. I move behind him, seeing his black hat perched on the corner, hovering above his cane. I take a few more, hearing the quiet sound of my own breath, noticing how I hold it at the moment I click, an old habit I learned to be more steady. And then the camera hides in my bag as someone is approaching. I step high over the fence, and disappear down a side street. 

There is construction going on here, great piles of dirt and orange plastic are stretched across things in a zig-zagging makeshift fence. The machines stand still, forgotten yellow beasts crusted with mud. They will sit like this all weekend, I think or maybe longer.  







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