Monday, January 9, 2023

Chronicle of an photograph not taken

She was leaning on a concrete wall, smoking a cigarette and looking at her cell phone screen. A young woman dressed in a SUBWAY teeshirt, outside an empty SUBWAY, across a narrow road from the empty movie theater, devoid even of its letters now that deconstructors came to take them down. Lilith and I walked past, gazing at the empty theater, its brown papered doors, its EXIT signs with nothing to exit. Mostly, all we saw was ourselves, reflected. On our way back, she looked at us and smiled. "May I take your photo?" I asked, thinking of the way she'd bent down with her cigarette, reading her screen. "Why?" she asked. "Because I like to take photographs." Lilith sniffed her ankles, and she was happy her own dog had been noticed in its absence. She came up with the idea of having us take a selfie together, so I took one of her smiling and my one spectacled eye peering into the small square, STL logo on my head. But of course that was not the photograph I'd wanted. As we left, I read a long tattoo down her arm from elbow to wrist. The letters were big, stenciled in a fancy font, and added up to a phrase about being true to yourself (but not that, exactly). That was the photograph, in the end, I didn't take. Then I'd better remember the sad beauty of the phrase. Maybe I'll get myself a sub sandwich one day (though I hate Subway) and ask to take the photo of her arm. She said the empty theater might turn into a Planet Fitness, if they could ever fix the air-conditioning.


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