The darkroom monitor was disapproving when I turned up with Ezra in tow. You're not supposed to bring children because of the chemicals, she said. His babysitter fell through, I tried to explain. She let me in grudgingly. I had a whole bag of film to develop but I picked three rolls, set Ezra in the corner with the iPad, and disappeared into the dark, dark, darkroom.
There is something so comforting about that space, a little cocoon. I feel safe there in the quiet and dark. I know what happens in there is predictable and orderly, but even with the chemistry, with the agitating and the fixing and the rinsing and the watching the seconds tick down on the clock, it feels like magic.
I cursed when I pulled this spool out of the tank. I rolled this precious document of a day on the Pacific backwards. Now I gingerly pull the mangled plastic off the reel to reveal a windblown Meghan, mostly obliterated by my clumsy out-of-practice hand.
Still, she's there, in some ethereal form, wispy like my memory of the day. There, in the dim basement of an old mansion in Capitol Hill, I can smell the salt air of the wet Northwest.
I could hear Ezra's iPad spelling game on the other side of the door, so I ducked out to adjust his earphones. Plunged back into quiet, I was luckier with subsequent rolls. I pulled little windows on another world out of the darkness.
Twelve little squares, stacked on top of one another, transport me to a place where friends like Tara patiently allow me to set and reset, meter and re-meter, before, finally, click.
Debra too, in the melancholy light and shadow. I remember this weekend as fun, but more than that. It was a tender balance of deep and delicate shared truth.
In this dim little closet, with the iPad and the disapproving darkroom monitor on the other side of the door, there's a satisfying quiet and rhythm of alchemy. In the darkroom the rest of the world goes away, and each little frame of celluloid is like a crystal ball vision of a moment far away. On this day, it was a portal to an accepting sisterhood and love.