(x) Days of Photography — Knock-off
(X) DAYS OF PHOTOGRAPHY is a flash fiction/photography collaboration with David Maney of Jotter Notes. This is Day Eleven.
Starting in late autumn, he rented the room that was previously occupied by his victim, and took up a routine. He spent most of his days away from the apartment down by the train yards, waiting for the rain to quit and snow to start falling to cover the city in a blanket.
Today, there were mud pools between the tracks, and a young man in corduroy pants and loose shirt walking around the yard photographing those brown mud pools with a small black camera.
After several days of eyeing him off the young man came over to him and asked if he could take his photograph. He suspected he was in a dozen photos already, albeit in the background behind the mud pools, and the young man was just being courteous.
“Is that all you want?” he asked, trying to come across gruff.
“Yes, that’s all.”
“That’s okay by me then,” and he went back to staring out on the yard.
It was just before knock-off and all the trains had come into station empty and were waiting to go out full with the evening rush.
“Do you think you could sit on that chair up there?”
Presently, he was sitting on the ledge, and turned around to see a metal frame chair lying on its side next to a large wooden spindle of orange cable. His bum was cold, and he felt stupid for not noticing the chair earlier; so he got up gingerly, even though his legs were fine, and made his way over to the chair. He lifted the chair and sat on it backwards so he could rest his arms on its back, and put his face in his hands, and resume staring out on the yard, although he now was being watched. “Great,” said the young man, and made a full circle around him, resting on his haunches, twitching the lens of his camera. His straight black hair flared some in the wind and it was all he could do not the look at young man’s hair and wonder how it didn’t bother him. The first outbound train came out of the station with a handful of passengers still making their way to hand straps dangling from the ceiling. He heard the shutter open and close twice behind him.
“Thank you,” said the young man.
“All done? Can I see?”
“It’s an old camera.” The young man showed him that the back of the camera had no screen.
“Oh, really.” He tried to think of something to say. “Dark-room and chemicals and stuff.”
“In my bathroom.” He could tell the young man’s thoughts had already turned to how the photos would come out. He shuffled his feet as he talked about how he had painted the skylight in his bathroom black, and bought a red bulb so he could see in the dark.
“You best go then.”
It wasn’t yet dark, but he made his way back to the apartment. From the train yard it was impossible to take the same walk back.
He rattled the keys in the lock, opened the door and put down the keys and shook out his umbrella and took of his boots and turned the heels to the edge of the landing so he could step into them easily them on his way out. He walked into the kitchen and switched on the light and stood at the kitchen sink with his hands resting on the counter. Empty, save for a few sticks of furniture he had found outside the building on hard rubbish day.
“Can you please come out.”
She didn’t, so he went to the cupboard door and opened it. She was curled up at the bottom of the cupboard. He grabbed both her arms and dragged her out over the cans of peeled tomatoes and baked beans and a bag of oninons, out onto the ktichen floor. Her eyes were open but she pretended to be asleep.
“I can’t go on like this,” he said.
Every bone in her body popped back in place as she stood up straight. She held her mouth slack before gulping and tightening her lips.
“We have to think about our future.” She didn’t say outright that she wanted him to stay, but woman never should unless they’re foolish, she thought.
It was her choice of words that bothered him. Words are sometimes fivolous noise with their meaning put out before the thoughts behind them are fully understood. Conversation is the game we play where thinking is the practice, and they had been keeping conversation to themselves for over a month; She now boasted that she had already rejected his offer two-times. “So many times, I forget what the question was,” she said. A hollow boast.
“You should say yes, and soon; you can’t be sure I’ll ask again.”
He went to the bedroom.
A month later, an unmarked manilla envelope, without address or stamp, would be slid under the door of the apartment. A further two more weeks would pass before curiosity got the better of her and she came out and collected the envelope and then hurried back to the crawl space. With her torch she flicked through the magazine that had been delivered, and soon thought of returning, but saw that is had no sender. She flicked through after photo after photo, and articles in print to small for her to read, until she came across a black and white double-spread of a man sitting backwards on a chair with his back to the camera. He was mere shadow. All colour was taken out of the scene. The background was shaky and blurry. She thought she could see two trains passing, one on either page of the double-spread. But his shadow casted doubt in her mind. Were the two trains heading in the same, or opposite directions? Were they just the same train? The light and shadow gave the photo an age. It reflected his thinking.
He came back into the kitchen. He was wearing the last of his clean shirts and a pair of pants with an oil stain on the pocket. She broke off her stare and looked at him, tucking a wisp of hair behind her ear. His mouth contorted in a search for words, and after a moment, he just sighed. He walked to the landing and returned with the keys and placed them on the kitchen counter, then returned to the landing and slid into his boots, picked up his umbrella and opened the front door, only to turn back into the apartment and take one step from the landing to see that she was gone. He found the switch and turned off the kitchen light and left through the front door.
“Did you see it? Did you see that?”
(to be continued)