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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 …

no museums (Fernando)

 

The move happened quickly. There was a long hour standing in the new kitchen, as papers were copied by hand, waiting for passport numbers and signatures. We went from room to room, pasting pink post-it notes to everything we were asking them to take away. There was a decrepit sofa that E said looked like a giant dead monkey. There were cabinets with ceramic families inside them. There were broken tables, and they were all going away to the landlord's country house if we payed to transport them.

I breathed in deep, imagining a room with only our things in it, not stacked on top of books and chairs the landlord had left behind, a sort of Soviet junk museum that they considered gold.

E would have her own room, looking out at trees and a big sky. I would have a kitchen where I did not have to ask anyone to move their chair to open the fridge. N would have fresh air, and closet space. It all felt too perfect, and I waited for the second shoe to drop but somehow it never did.

The day came when the last box was slogged through the front door, and we sat in the chairs that were left. A faint smell of old lady perfume and kasha drifted past us as we opened doors. The tea kettle was unearthed. E skipped from room to room, imagining things I will never know. N sipped from the red cup, her hands wrapped around it as she always does. There are only two red cups left now, and we cannot find replacements for them.




 


We leave early for school, navigating the streets to the little bus that takes us halfway there. In this mashrutka, you pay 30 rubles and hope to get a seat as the driver weaves past the corners like we are in Monte Carlo.

We step into the cool air, and walk the same way to school and arrive 15 minutes early.

E goes behind those familiar doors. I imagine N in bed, her lips pursed, her face curled beneath the covers.

On the way back, it is a different mashrutka, and the driver has the radio on. It is cranking an Abba song.

They were closer now Fernando
Every hour every minute seemed to last eternally
I was so afraid Fernando
We were young and full of life and none of us prepared to die
And I'm not ashamed to say
The roar of guns and cannons almost made me cry


I find myself humming along. The old woman next to me turns her face slowly, studying me. I smile at her, knowing this is a good way to look like I am on drugs, or am "simple" as they say here. She looks at me, offering no reaction. I hum a little louder. She turns away, looking out the window at the sun dancing on the cold asphalt.








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