Did It All Before
Cynthia Hamill © 2021
All Rights Reserved
Scott opens his eyes slowly as he steps out of the darkroom. The small lamp on his bedside cabinet provides only a shadowy glow over the flat, and he shuffles toward it with a yawn, finally ready for sleep.
When he’d started renting this place in Camden three years ago, it was meant to be somewhere to crash between jobs, a glorified storage locker with a shower. It’s square and plain, his bed on one side and galley kitchen on the other, decorated only with photos and trinkets from his travels. After the accident, when it became clear he’d be grounded for a few months, he transformed the bathroom by draping a blackout curtain around the door and setting a plank over the bathtub for his chemical trays. There, he can flip on the fan and work for hours, just feet away physically but miles away mentally from his bed, where insomnia and nightmares crowd out any hope of sleep.
His darkroom habit is his only connection to photography these days. He hasn’t picked up his camera since he left the hospital in January; it’s in pieces, after all, his £3,200 digital Canon collecting dust in his cupboard. Scott never did find out who collected it from the scene and sent it along with him in the ambulance. They shouldn’t have bothered; he can’t bring himself to touch the thing, even to throw it out. Instead, he finds solace in the undeveloped film from his 35mm Leica.
Film is reserved for London, family, and home, where there are no publishing deadlines to meet or editors to please. He has compiled quite a collection of undeveloped rolls over the last few years; being home only a day or two at a time had given him a chance to take pictures but not develop them before he’d be on his way again, so his desk drawer holds a grab bag of birthday parties, impromptu picnics, and London day trips. He never knows what will appear on the long strip of film, but he knows what won’t. There will be no Ukraine, no Kabul, no Delhi; no plane crashes, no war zones, no children dying in poverty.
Last night, the roll he processed had turned out to be all Olivia and Thomas, two years ago at Christmas. Scott’s heart clenched pleasantly when the images appeared, remembering how he and his sister had sprinkled jelly babies and crisps in the garden for reindeer food because Thomas thought that’s what they’d like. Tonight, Scott picks out a few frames to print for Olivia, of their mum filling stockings and Thomas’s astonished reaction to his new toy train. He spends time printing the images, making sure the contrast is perfect. His eyes finally get heavy as he places the last few photographs on the drying rack.
The sky is not yet lightening. Scott picks up his phone from the bedside cabinet to check the time. Thursday, the 19th of May, 4:07 a.m. An appointment reminder lights up, and shit, today is his first session with the new guy Dr Coulter wants him to see.
At least the appointment isn’t until two.
After he crosses the day off his calendar with his black Sharpie (he’s up to day one hundred fifty-nine) and sends a quick goodnight message on WhatsApp, Scott arranges himself in bed, flat on his back with his bad arm propped up on pillows. He’ll get a few hours of sleep after all.