“Photo is a major with personality,” i opined to her as we sat in the plastic institutional chairs and eyed the machine that was whirring and drying her prints. “Smells like a beach in here,” i told her, not meaning to go on to make fun of New Jersey, but doing so anyway. Minutes beforehand there had been four of them along the wall-length sink, all with their odd developing cylinders and odd-smelling chemicals. A major with personality, expressed in the cuts of their jeans and the way they agitated the shiny containers with their spools of film safely ensconced from any possible outside influence.
I followed her into the darkroom without really thinking about it; after all, i was along to watch her develop film. I should’ve noticed the quizzical look on her face before she shut the door, as afterwards i couldn’t make out anything at all in the broom-closet sized room that she had just plunged into pitch darkness. She had to brush past my entire body to turn the bolt on the door, and i interiourly chuckled at the thought that the entire scene might have a more seductive tone if she wasn’t intent on her film. “I suppose it’s just like flirting with me while i play guitar,” i thought to myself as i carefully slid down the wall to sit on the ground in front of the door, “i hardly even notice.” I was told not to move, and i was unable to see, and all there was for a few minutes were the odd metallic clicks of the reel and my eyes desperately trying to make out any vestige of the dull red light of the main room through the door. My fingers looked slightly less black than the rest of the blackness, but the wall kept coming as a surprise.
The girl at the end of the sink had on jeans that fit her hips awkwardly, riding too high up off of her thighs and low from her waist to show off the bottom of a swirling tattoo on the small of her back. For a second it reminded me of how Anastasia’s jeans used to fit her, unselfconsciously dorky and sexy at the same time, and for that second i imagined that it was her tapping her shiny container against the sink. Just my imagination, i chastised myself. Instead, the dull metal thuds that rang in the air were the product of a taller, darker girl who somehow managed to seem entirely plain despite her angular features. I suppose it was that… the ability to exude careful plainnness and inattention… that reminded me of the parts of my Senior Year spent idly hanging out on Anastasia’s bedroom floor. I had just been mentioning it to Elise the other night, and i had found myself immediately self-conscious of my mentioning another girl who i had written a song for.
“A major with personality,” i said, and as i surveyed the room for a second i found myself thinking of Anastasia, who maybe was the first quirky girl with a camera i really got to know. There’s something about the clicks of a camera, the sureness of the fingers, the rotating it ninety degrees around the careful eye. Something about plastic binders full of black and white photos and sheets of negatives makes me think of her, although now she doesn’t even seem to talk to me in the odd moments i run into her on instant messager. I don’t think Elise was too jealous; after all, it’s not much use being envious of someone who never really cared for the songs i wrote about her over three years ago. And who never took my picture.
It must be something like watching me tune my guitar — that’s what i had thought when i watched Elise carefully advance a fresh roll of film earlier. An unrelenting attention to the instrument that acts as an extension of her eye, and my ever increasing ease with the shiny silver tuning instruments of my guitar and the chiming harmony the strings should wind up in when i’m done.
Her pictures versus my songs; a fair trade, i suppose. Except, now i owe her several thousand words more of them.