Tick, tick, ticku, tick, tick, tick, ticku, tick, ticku, tick, ticku, tick, drrrrrrrr, drrrrrr, drrrrrr, bang, drrrr, bang, drrrr, dvirr, dong, bang, dong, dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, drrrr, drrrrr, ding, ticku, ticku, ticku, ticku, ding, ticku, ticku, ticku…“ Half unconscious, I looked at my cell phone, which was serving as an alarm.
“Wait a sec. Why so early? Another hour. I’ll make it.” I turned off the alarm and turned towards the wall, returning to what was left of a pleasant dream.

“Did you get panties?” Jaco leaned over the screen of Gono’s camera. They were the best paparazzi photographers in the country, or at least they wanted to be thought of as such.
“Shit!” Gono answered. “That asshole covered it with his hand.”
“Bingo! I’ve got it!” Jaco rejoiced, scrolling through the menu with his fingers. “See? You can almost see the crack.” He put the camera up to his face.
“Good one, good one. We’ll get a thousand for that one for sure.”
“A thousand, are you nuts? Two K at least.”
Their dreams of future business plans were interrupted by the entrance of the next star. They and the other twenty photographers threw themselves in her direction.
“Britney, Britney! Over here!” yelled a guy from over on the left.
“Now look at me!” A guy from the right yelled over him.
“Down here, Britney!” A guy squatting lower tried to attract the singer’s gaze in his direction.
“Over here, over here please, Britney, up here!” Tall Ken tried to be even taller and lifted his arm holding the camera overhead.
“Britney, Britney, blow me, blow me,” Jeff muttered quietly, looking at what he had managed to photograph.
“Over here, please!” I couldn’t have been worse. I tried to yell over the crowd.
“Britneeeey! Over here!” Peter had a decidedly more audible voice.
Someone elbowed me and I moved aside involuntarily. Zenon pushed through the crowd.
“Where are you pushing to, dude?!” shouted Boo-Boo, who was so known on account of his short stature.
“Fuck off, Boo-Boo!” Zenon tried to push him behind a pillar.
“Hey, you!” Boo-Boo was short, but he had long arms. He began swinging, beating his fists into Zenon’s flash. Zenon returned in kind, trying to choke Boo-Boo with his Canon strap. They fell over, pummeling each other with their cameras and bare fists, striking whatever they could. Ken tried to separate the fighters, but a part of a sun shade knocked off his glasses, which shattered on the floor. Gono and Jaco, standing on either side, photographed the scene with a series of flashes. The others remained paralyzed, not understanding exactly what had happened.
“Enough!” Security guards lifted the fighters to their feet. “That’s enough for today, gentlemen,” and with a few efficient movements moved everyone in the direction of the exit.
“And that’s it for work,” I thought.
“A tenner for sure,” Gono said to me over his shoulder.
“Yeah. All right, gotta bounce, gotta upload.” Jaco pulled a laptop from his bag and rushed to his car, parked outside the club.

“Am I going to look pretty?” Paula bared her teeth towards the lens.
“Of course,” I answered. “Like a young god – goddess, that is.” I looked into the viewfinder, trying to remember how I ended up mixed up in this work.

Last week, Matt came up to me at the end of a party and slapped me friendlily on the back.
“How’s it going?”
“All right, I guess. How ‘bout you?”
“All right, dude, all right. Great, even. I have a new lady friend.”
“Congratulations. What’s the wife think of that?” I joked.
“Don’t be a pain in the ass. A man – especially a hard-working man – has to have his time to relax. Do you think that I just go to work and go home, go to work again and back home, over and over again? A man has to have some pleasure in his life.”
“Of course,” I agreed, biting my tongue. Evaluating friends’ actions is too risky, especially when you’re renting an efficiency from them for chump change.
“And what’s up with this new lady friend of yours?”
“You know, I was thinking that maybe Paula could get into modeling and you know…you’re a photographer, right?” “Yeah, but I don’t have much experience with models.”
“Hey, hey,” he interrupted, shaking his finger in my face, “don’t be modest. You have a camera, right?”
“I do.”
“So you take the girl…”
“But I don’t have a studio,” I tried to lie my way out at any cost.
“Dude. Whadda you need a studio for? You go to the bush and get a shot,” he croaked, winking at me. “In the wild. Au naturel, you know?” He was amusing himself. “Anyway, you don’t have to take good pictures, you just have to take pictures, period. I promised that I would make a model out of her and I have to show that I’m working in that direction. You get it?”
“So here’s her number. Give her a ring tomorrow and you two will work it out. Take it easy,” he said nonchalantly, returning to the bar.

And so it was that I found myself standing in front of a girl kneeling on the bed, looking around for help, as if included in the price of the room were five pounds of ideas.
“Give me sexy, Paula.” I reminded myself of American films about photographers.
She pushed out her lips, tilting her head back.
“Should I take my shirt off?”
“No, it’s ok.”
“How am I supposed to be sexy if I’m dressed?”
“OK. That’s good. Bring your hand up to your mouth.” I tried to make something out of nothing. I took several dozen frames in a row so it would seem professional and took the card out of the camera.
“All right. That’s enough for today.”
“Can we look? Can we look?” Paula peered at the computer like a small child at a toy store display window.
“Great!” she yelled. “Oh! And this one is nice. I look fat here, delete this one. Oh! This is great!” There was no end to her raptures.
“Will you send them to me?”
“After I work on them, ok?”
“Ok, that’s cool,” she calmed down and asked: “Are you gonna wait for Matt?”
“He’s supposed to come? I didn’t know.”
“You know. Since we rented the room and everything…” she winked. “He said that he’ll be here…” she looked at the clock, “in an hour. Are you going to wait?”
“I don’t think so. I still want to take care of a few things in the city. Tell him I’ll call him next week.”
“All right, whatever. But you’ll send the photos?”

As the elevator doors closed behind me, Paula stood in the open room and blew me a kiss. I pressed the button for the lobby and rode down. I threw a smile to the pretty receptionist. It was twilight on the street. I didn’t feel like stuffing myself onto the bus. I adjusted my bag and set off on foot.

More than a decade ago I told myself that no matter what happened in my life, photography would always be number one. That women would leave, friendships would end and despite whatever shitty things might happen, a bit of film and a ramshackle camera would be enough to make me happy. And my only worry would be that the nice light wouldn’t be gone too fast…
“My esteemed lord.” I didn’t notice when a drunk cut me off.
“My lord, the matter is,” he repeated. I slowed down and looked at him inquisitively.
“Perhaps my lord would have a little spare change for some bread.”
I took out my camera and aimed it at the homeless guy.
“50!” he hollered.
“What?” I asked.
“50 for a photo or I’m calling the police.”
“Fine. Maybe tomorrow,” I answered and turned on my heel.
And despite the fact that women left, friendships ended and the light was always the same, I just didn’t want to take photos anymore. All that was left was a habit, formed over years, that didn’t bring me pleasure anymore and only satisfied incomprehensible needs.

The phone woke me up.
“Hello?” I croaked sleepily.
“Can you be at the president’s place in an hour?” My friend’s voice was impatient.
“I’m not sure if I’ll make it.”
“Try. Anyway, I don’t have anyone to send, so if you don’t go, there won’t be any photos.”
“Fine. What’s happening?”
“He’s meeting the Italian president.”
“Ok. Wait…”
She hung up before I could finish.
I got out of bed and ran to the bathroom. With longing I looked towards the kitchen, knowing that I could forget about breakfast, or even a sip of coffee. I pulled on my pants, put on a blazer and ran out of the house.

The bus took unmercifully long to get there. I got to the palace just a little bit late. Outside the booth that issued permits I met a breathless friend.
“Hey! We’re going in through the hotel today!” he gasped. We ran to the back of the building. Sweating, we entered, flashing our press passes at the security guard.
“Hmm…latecomers.” He smiled, glancing at the list of approved names. You’re not here,” he said to me, moving his finger down the page.
“I have to be,” I answered.
“Don’t worry. We’ll write you on later,” and he handed me a pass.
“Please follow me,” said a second security guard.
With a quick stride he lead us to the terrace, where an army of photojournalists and cameramen gathered behind barriers.
“So?” Steve blabbed to me. “Drink too much and couldn’t get out of bed?”
“You all been waiting long?”
“About an hour?”
“So any second now…” I couldn’t finish, because the presidents came out of opened doors. They shook hands and looked towards the cameras. The sound of serially snapped shutters became a load roar. The politicians stood for a moment and went back indoors.
“Nice,” Steve said, looking at his screen.
“Look,” he showed me, “the first photo from 11:07:21, the last from 11:07:32. Eleven seconds. And Josh even managed to change his lens. Magician!”
We moved towards the exit. I reached for my phone and read a text – “Call when you finish with the photos.” I punched in the number to my editorial office.
“Hi. Done already?”
“Yeah, it didn’t take long.”
“The boss wants you to come and see him.”
“Do you know what he wants?”
“No. He didn’t say.”
“Ok. I’ll be there soon.” I put my phone in my pocket.
“See you guys, I’ve gotta run over to my office.”

“What’s up?” I asked, entering the office. “Did he say what he wants?”
“I told you, I don’t know. But I think he mentioned something about the camera.”
I left my bag on the table and went into the boss’s cell.
“Oh! You’re here, great.”
“Hi,” I answered. “Did something happen?”
“No, no. I mean, there is a request. Greg’s equipment broke on him.”
“Mm hm. And?”
“You know. He’s going to this conference tomorrow, hotel’s booked, ticket’s bought. I have to give him something. You’re the only one still using a company camera.”
“Yeah. But we agreed…”
“I know. It was supposed to be until the end of the year. But you know – higher powers. Anyway, lately we haven’t been doing so well, more competition. You’ll make do somehow.”
“Yeaaaa…the question is how.”
“Take a little time off. You’ll figure something out. Think about it, cause it’s actually funny. A professional photographer, without a camera? Figure something out, because it’s like in that joke about the shoemaker, you know?”
“You don’t know it? You know…a shoemaker without shoes…” and he waved his hand and reached for the phone, signaling that the conversation was over.
Greg was hanging around the water cooler.
“Sorry, man,” he smiled uneasily, “it’s not my fault. It just happened. I said I could borrow one from a friend, but he insisted I take yours.”
“Ok. It’s all right,” I answered. “Come on. I’ll give you the camera.”
The boss leaned out of his cubicle.
“Leave the laptop too.”
I nodded.
“Come on Greg, I’ll give you the laptop too.”
“But my laptop isn’t broken,” Greg said, puzzled.
“It’s no problem. I’m not going to be needing it anymore.”
We went back into the office. I gave him my bag of equipment and left.

Is it possible to be so exhausted that you are tired of everything? That all conversations seem shallow, senseless, and completely uninteresting? What joy can a conversation give you when you already know the answers to questions still unasked? Is forcing yourself to be social, to smile and chat happily a game, a pretense, or an effort to protect yourself and fear of rejection?

I was overwhelmed by things that I didn’t want to think about and tried without success to forget. I wasn’t yet twenty years old. More and more often I caught myself wondering if it was still worth it rather than what was next. If it was worth starting and if there was enough time. Like in that song: that one day I realized that ten years had gone by. That no one told me to run and that I missed the signal to start…

The phone didn’t ring. No one jumped on me in the morning and ordered me to go all the way across the city. I didn’t have to hurriedly gulp down stale bread and slurp the remains of last evening’s tea. I made myself breakfast – yesterday’s bread soaked in egg and warmed up on the skillet. Tea tasted like it did yesterday, with the only difference being that it didn’t burn my throat. I looked out the window and I left without any hurry.

“Good morning.” I looked around the shop. On the shelves, behind shining glass, laid the newest models of digital reflex cameras; nearby rose towers of lenses, stacked high and resembling skyscrapers or missiles. Colorful magazines and books concealing all of the secrets of photography.
“Good morning,” the salesman replied politely. “Can I help you?"
“I lost my camera and I’m looking for something to earn me some money.”
“What system are you interested in?” He didn’t ask about details, just got right down to business.
“Maybe Nikon?”
“Of course.” He walked over to the nearest display case. “D3? Very strong, reliable, fantastic matrix, great sensitivity,” he continued, reading the prospectus from memory.
“Yes, I know, but I think that for now a D700 would do.”
“Of course.” He took out the camera and set it on the counter. “Any lenses?”
“Traditional ones. 24-70 and 70-200.” I wondered to myself how much time would pass before that fantastic, professional purchase would pay itself off.
“I’m afraid,” he said, looking at the computer, “that I don’t have any more long zooms. Unfortunately, the soonest I’ll have it is after the weekend. Of course, if you do decide on the purchase, I can lend you a Sigma as a replacement…”
“I can wait until next week.” I thought that several days of doing nothing wouldn’t hurt and would give me time to think a few things over.
“No problem. I think I will be able to work out a deal for you,” the salesman tempted me.
“Great,” I answered, looking around the shop.
“Oh! You still sell those things?” I joked, gesturing at the shelf of analog cameras.
“Rarely. Now only to young people or fervent artists. Plus it’s getting worse and worse with film. We sell so little that it doesn’t pay to order any. You know. I get too much and they expire faster than people buy them.”
“I used to have a one like that.” I gestured to a little rangefinder.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” the salesman said, reaching for it and putting it into my hands. “It’s been sitting here for a year and I don’t think anything has changed. I don’t even know if the batteries still work.”
I put the camera up to my eye and pressed the shutter release. Blinking inside.
“They work,” I smiled. “Do you have any lenses for it?”
“No. Only this wide one.”
“Nice. I remember that I was very happy with it.”
“Why did you sell it?” he asked.
“I didn’t sell it. It broke on me.”
“You couldn’t get it fixed?”
“I couldn’t even find it. I was taking pictures in the mountains. I slipped and the camera went tumbling down.”
“That’s a shame.” He shook his head.
“It’s too bad that the film was in it, too,” I nodded. “That was the end of my trip, because I didn’t have any more. I came back with nothing. No equipment, no pictures.” I handed him back the camera. “So we’re on for Monday?”
“Of course,” the salesman replied.

I stood out in front of the store. It killed me to think that I was spending all my money on something that I would have to use for a year to earn money and be in exactly the same position I was now. Maybe it would be better to take it easy for a while? Stay at home, get up in the afternoon, go to bed at dawn. Sit and look at the ceiling, or wander around the city in circles, left to right, top to bottom? Give up the race, wait out a lap. But then what? A year would pass and it would be exactly the same. Nothing would change. Because really, nothing ever changes. We think that we are moving forward, having new experiences and when we slow down and consider for a while, it turns out that we don’t have anything except for a year-old used camera, half of which is junk.

“Hey, hey! Long time!” Mark seemed pleased at our chance meeting.
“Hi,” I answered. Unexpected contact with a guy you know from school could be a nice surprise or a nightmarish waste of time. But what could it hurt to risk it, since he had come along now, when I had so much time on my hands to waste.
“Yup. But you’re a photographer too.”
“Too?” I was confused. From what I recalled, I was the one making an ass of himself, running around with a camera at all the parties and wasting nights in the bathroom, gazing at a piece of paper by red light. Mark was more interested in the fairer sex, of which, as he put it himself once, he was a gourmand.
“Oh yes. Imagine, I take a few photos.”
“I didn’t know that. You always had other hobbies.”
“You know, man, I put them together. I bought a digital a year ago and I’m telling you, it was a bullseye. Girls are coming one after the other.”
“You doing fashion?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he nodded. “I rented part of a basement downtown, raided a secondhand shop and I’ve got paradise. I don’t have to spend money going out. There’s a little table, an antique bed. You’ve got to come over, man. Definitely. Totally pro. Come back in for a bit.”
“Zbig, hey. I’m here for the long zoom.” He shook the salesman’s hand, who immediately went in the back and brought out a gold box with a Nikon 70-200.
“Good one?” Mark joked, turning to me.
“The best,” I answered. “Professional.”
“So we’ll take it.” He paid and we left the shop.
“Professional for sure,” he continued. “I have to have a professional one. You can’t cheat the girls. They always know if you’ve got junk or if you should be taken seriously. What are you working with? Do you have a Nikon by any chance? Because if you want I can lend it to you to test out.”
“No, I don’t have a Nikon.”
“Ha! A Canon man, I see.”
“I don’t have a Canon either.”
“Don’t be an ass. Don’t tell me you bought a Sony.”
“No, not a Sony either.”
“So what do you have?”
“Nothing at the moment.”
“What do you mean, nothing?” He was confused.
“I had a Canon but it broke.”
“Oh yeah. Canons are trash. I read that their autofocus doesn’t work. But it’s cool. If you want, I can lend you the lens, and a camera too.”
“If you lend me yours, what will you use on the girls?”
“Dude. A man doesn’t live with one camera alone,” he grinned happily. He walked to his car parked outside the shop and threw the box into the trunk.
“So, what?”
“So what will we do about this beautiful meeting of ours? I’m not going to abandon you now. Let’s reminisce about old times, have a coffee. Or, no! You know what? Have you seen the exhibit at the Debris Hut Gallery?”
“‛Eyes wide covered?’ I haven’t had the chance.”
“So let’s go. You’ll see my latest project.”
“You’re showing your stuff there?”
“Oh sure. That exhibit is a cross-section of our generation. Wojtek called me, I couldn’t tell him no. Let’s go. Just a short walk and maybe we’ll even drink a beer along the way.”

I didn’t resist. There was a lot of time. Mark chattered the entire way. He described in detail all his sessions with the models. Most of the stories were based on descriptions of his skills, not necessarily connected with photography. “…and then there was Sylvia. Man, I’m telling you. Great chick, but too professional.”
“In what sense professional?” I didn’t understand.
“You know. Instead of listening what to do and how, getting what it’s all about, that one is all, she doesn’t like that pose, it’s unnatural, women don’t stand like that. You can go fucking nuts. She didn’t want to take her clothes off, and when I told her about the project, she got up and left. She’s fucked up. And everyone said that she knows how to pose and she takes it very seriously.”
“What project?” I was curious.
“Oh really? But you’re not interested in art, after all. Reporter,” he nodded his head knowingly.

We entered the garden in which the Hut was situated. Once the ruins of an old palace, now renovated and done up in an eclectic style. Old, historical walls mixed with modern architecture of steel and glass. The whole thing was complemented by riveted pipes, poking out of every nook and cranny. Lots of pipes. They were supposed to be like branches in a real hut, but from a distance it looked like a big bundle of wire balled up haphazardly. The furor caused by the opening of its “restaurant” had died down long ago. The palace turned out to be not historical enough to merit preserving its old appearance. Only from the side of the embankment was there left a bit of its old form, which made it look, coming from below and approaching from afar, like a true historical relic.

“Hi, Kate,” Mark smiled at the young girl checking tickets. “I came to show my friend the garden.” He winked at her conspiratorily. The girl smiled widely.
“Kate is a flower too,” he whispered to me quietly.
The exhibit took up three floors. The entire building was filled with photographic art. On the walls hung photographs in color, black and white, big and small. Projected slides adjoined against audiovisual presentations.
“This is mine,” Mark said, indicating an enormous photograph of about 6.5 by 10 feet. “This is my ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’.”
I looked at the photo. Under a blue sky with small white clouds unfolded fields of flowers. They looked like orchids, but their colors seemed more a work of computer than a work of nature.
“It’s nice,” I nodded.
“Dude. I photoshopped like you wouldn’t believe. I thought I wouldn’t be able to take it. The worst part was convincing so many girls.
“Girls?” I didn’t understand. “Ha!” Mark was mysterious. “Get a little closer.”
I walked up to the photo. What had from farther away seemed like strange flowers were really female genitalia distorted in photoshop.
“It got you, huh?” Mark was beaming. “There are no duplicates. Each flower is one girl. Three hundred sixty six flowers. As many as there are days in a year. A leap year. Not bad, right?”
“It’s impressive,” I admitted.
“Of course it is. It’s art, bro. Craftsmanship, effort, concept –” the sound of his phone cut off Mark’s enthusing.
“Yes, dear.”
“I really can’t, I ran into…”
“Fine. I’ll be right there.” He put the phone in his pocket.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta run. You know, something urgent, like.”
“Did something happen? Something serious?”
“No, no. An important meeting. You know. You stay here and have a look, check it out, and I’ll give you a call later, ok? So, see ya. Bye.”
He left before I could give him my phone number.

I gazed around the room. I began to look at the photographs with envy. But as Mark said – journalism isn’t art. It’s hard, anyway, to call what I was doing journalism. Photos of stars signing their new albums and bowing at film premieres, the president shaking the premier’s hand, or new ticket machines at the train station – their place is in colorful magazines and newspapers printed on poor-quality paper. They’re shot quickly, looked at quickly, and thrown away. Nothing that could be shown at “Eyes wide covered” or sent to World Press Photo. The master of unnecessary photography. Ten years of getting up every morning, calculated by the needs of everyday life and the lack of a flower of my own.

I looked in every nook and cranny of the gallery. The most conspicuous – logically – were the big photographs, like the “Garden of Earthly Delights.” After I had briefly inspected the largest piece, however, I decided to look for new flavors in the smaller works. Those smallest ones had their own special room. Dozens of contact sheets hung next to each other in the loft. Next to each sheet hung a small magnifying glass, so that the viewers could interact with them more easily. It could be a problem for some people, because to get to the magnifying glass you had to crouch way down. When I got closer, I realized that crouching wouldn’t solve the problem. It was clear that the artist demanded that his work be approached from a lying/crawling position. I took a look at the piles of dust and trash gathering in front of the photos and thought that except for in one spot, where a polished floorboard demarcated the path to one of the contact sheets, this artistic performance had turned out to be entirely unsuccessful.

Above the most heavily-viewed contact sheet there was an inscription: “A thousand virgins.” I had to consider how a thousand virgins could fit into 36 frames. That would mean 27.77 virgins per frame. How could so many virgins be visible in such a small photo? Even with the help of a magnifying glass? I was close to overcoming my disgust at wiping the floors and dropping down in front of the work. I was saved by the ringing of my phone.

“Hello?” I answered, suppressing the laugh that was growing inside me.
“Hey, it’s me,” Matt identified himself.
“Hey Matt. So? How are the photos? Is Paula happy?”
“They’re good. They’re fine,” he said unconvincingly. “But you know. There’s a little problem.”
“Not enough?” I guessed. “No problem, we can do more next week maybe. I have temporary problems with equipment, but…”
“No, no, it’s not that,” he interrupted me in a quiet voice, which seemed to me a little strange. Maciej was always eloquent and loud to boot.
“So what is it? Did your wife beat you?” I joked.
Silence answered me from the other end of the line.
“It got out about Paula,” he coughed out finally.
“Hey, man. Don’t worry. Everything will work out. The world isn’t ending, you know.” I wasn’t good at cheering people up, but I tried as best I could.
“Maybe it’ll somehow work out, but for now I’m stuck.”
I could already conjecture what the topic of the conversation would be.
“Paula must be happy, right?” I tried to rid myself of the unpleasant thought.
“It didn’t work out with Paula either.” He didn’t even try to explain why. “And you know. I have a problem with my pad. I’m going to live for a few days at the office, but if you could manage it, I’d like to move in next week. I know that it’s short notice, but you’ll probably find something else with no problem?”
“No problem at all,” I reassured him. A brilliant idea popped into my head. “I’ll leave you the keys tomorrow in the meter box.”
“You sure? Anyway, we should meet and…”
“No, no. Take it easy. It’s cool. Come over tomorrow evening, the apartment will be waiting. I’ve gotta go, later.”

I left the empty gallery and returned to the shop.
“Hello again,” I called from the door.
“So? Should we pack up that Nikon?” the salesman joked. “But as I said, I won’t have the 70-200 for you until next week.”
“No, no.” I shook my head. The corners of his mouth dropped a tiny bit. “But I would like to see that rangefinder again.”
“Ah…Yes.” He reached over and rooted around the shelf full of junk. “Here it is. A nice piece of equipment, you really can’t find it anywhere these days.” He passed it to me. “Just watch out, there’s film in it. If you decide to take it I’ll take it out.”
“Funny,” I thought and nodded my head. I held the camera in my hands and considered what I could see in it. Take the film out, do a few tests and see if it works? But did that make a bit of difference in the current situation? Can a lifeless object be trusted? I lifted it up to my eye and saw how the numbers in the viewfinder blinked invitingly. If I were high, drunk, or had a poetic soul, I could think – or hear, rather – how they whispered: “Buy me, take me away from here. I don’t want to get dusty and age, all closed up. I want to see a bit of life before it’s all over…”
“Good one,” I laughed at the thought.
“Ok. How much is it?” I asked the salesman.
“Six thousand,” he answered, looking me in the eye.
“How much?!!!”
“That’s right, sir. It’s in great condition. See, there are no scratches, the lens is clean. A piece of cult equipment.”
“Judging from the dust it seems it’s not only cult but also ancient.” I tried to be nasty, but it didn’t make an impact on him. He sensed that he would rid himself of a few pieces of junk that day and he was happy. He reached for a cloth and expertly wiped the camera all over.
“Buy me, buy me. Take me away from here, please.”
“Any spare batteries?” I asked.
He rooted through a drawer and pulled out some small, silver lozenges, writing numbers on a scrap of paper lying on the counter.
“Do you have a pack of some kind?”
The salesman walked over to a rack that shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow.
“Could you show me that Domke pouch?” I gestured to a small satchel lying in the case.
“It’s probably a little too small,” he answered, “and doesn’t have a strap.”
“It’ll work.” I slid the camera inside.
He wrote something else on the scrap of paper.
“And some film. Do you have any?”
He scratched his head delicately. He walked over to a refrigerator in the corner of the shop.
“There’s only six Tri-Xes.”
“That’s it?” I asked.
“I told you. No one buys it anymore. It just sits there and expires. There’s no reason to order any.”
“All right, that’s fine.” I looked at the camera’s counter. Half taken, with this one in the camera it’ll be six and a half rolls. Enough for now. I’ll buy more if I need to.
“Should I take that one out of there?”
“No, leave it in.”
“Who knows what’s on there, that old thing…”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll test it out on flowers,” I answered, already knowing that I would leave the film inside and treat myself to a surprise when it came out.
“Yes, yes, yes, I’ll be your best friend,” the camera whispered. I chuckled, causing the salesman to become slightly confused.
“So that’s it,” I said, reaching into my pocket.
“Camera 6,000, Domke pouch 100, batteries 10, film 100 – 6,250 all together.”
“Six thousand.”
“Nooo…I can’t.”
“It’s a shame,” I said, pulling my hand out of my pocket empty. “I’ll come next week for the…”
Stop! Take me, TAKE ME!
“Fine,” he sighed. “I’ll take the loss. At least I know that it’s in good hands and will be taking pictures.”
I nearly spluttered with laughter. I attached the pouch to my belt and threw the film into a bag.
“Ok. See you later.”
“See you later. I’m going to have that zoom next week. Come take a look.”
I nodded and left.
“Thank you, fuck, thank you man!!!” something hollered from near my belt. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I laughed out loud and scared an old lady passing by.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up and I won’t have a job, an apartment, or an idea about my future. Tomorrow morning is going to be the shittiest morning of all mornings experienced thus far. But that’s tomorrow.

Outside it was gradually turning into evening. The blue sky became a pinky violet, and the heat lost the remains of its fire. Moving aimlessly ahead, I ended up near the newest bridge. Built quite recently, suspended, very modern, its colorful lines were alluring from afar.

I climbed the stairs to the top. The roar of passing cars was lulling. The sun hid itself behind skyscrapers, which were reflected in the river. I stood and looked at how beautiful the city in which I was born looked from afar. The sky became dark blue and streetlights began bathing the streets in an orangey yellow. In moments the sky changed from dark blue to tarry black. I leaned out over the barrier and looked down. In the flowing current, an indistinct reflection appeared like a hallucination. I pulled out the camera and began framing. Despite a very itchy finger, I held myself back and didn’t push the shutter release. I looked around. In movies, the hero standing alone on a bridge always meets a mysterious figure of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, other than passing cars, I didn’t see another living soul. I hung the camera on my shoulder and set off for home.

I sensed that I was lying in a damp, dank, dark basement. I couldn’t open my eyes. I heard the sound of a chair being moved. A strong arm grabbed me and yanked me brutally.
“Name,” someone with an unpleasant voice barked at me. I swallowed some saliva. I wanted to answer and ask what was happening…
“You’re not saying?” I tensed my muscles, fearing that I was about to get beaten.
“Did you do it or not?”
“Did you leave it?”
“Did you forget?”
“Did you give up?”
“Did you consider that it wasn’t right?” The questions succeeded each other like shots from a machine gun. I tried to open my mouth.
“You won’t admit it?” He asked the questions in way that suggested that he wasn’t interested in the answers. He asked in order to have an excuse to hit me. But he didn’t hit me. So if his lack of interest in the answers didn’t result from the desire to hit me, it was obviously the case that he already knew the answers perfectly well. I wanted to yell, scream from pain, but no sound would leave my throat. With all my might, I tried to scream or open my eyes.

I opened them.

I was sitting on the bed. Waking up is unpleasant, even from nightmares. Returning to the real world, they remind us of its everyday features. The evil spirit takes up his magic wand and life begins without magical powers.

I made myself coffee and looked around my empty apartment. A few books, old magazines by the bed, a cheap hi-fi and some pirated cds next to it. A forty-year-old man should have more objects surrounding him, or at least a rich library of memories.

From cardboard boxes, which had for a long time been serving as provisional shelves, I took out several t-shirts, two pairs of pants, a brand-new sweater and some underwear. I threw everything into a small canvas bag. I reached for my phone – one bar. I threw it into the corner of the room. I put on sneakers, picked up the bag and looked around the tiny room that served as a substitute for a home. A home is made by the people who live in it. “Home is where the heart is.” My heart is always with me, so what’s the difference. I shrugged my shoulders and shut the door as I left. As promised, I left the key in the meter box.

I walked through still-empty streets, not knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t have a single idea or plan for what to do next. I didn’t want to have one. From the corner of my eye, I saw a display window with a wall of blinking televisions. Despite not being able to hear the music, I read the last lines of “Heroes” from Bowie’s lips.
I sped up and in 30 minutes I reached the Central Station. I avoided a smeared pile of dog shit in the underpass and approached the ticket windows.
“Good morning,” I smiled at the woman at the register.
“Good morning,” she tried to return the smile. It’s the easiest grimace to master.
“One ticket to Berlin, please.”
“When?” she asked.
“Now?” I answered.
“Uh huh…” This time the corners of her mouth lifted higher than before. “4:35 pm?”
“Great. Is there a window seat?”
“I think so, yes,” she nodded.
“Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.”

The train was in almost two hours. In order to kill time, I went into the shopping center attached to the station. I wandered through shops, looking at the displays and the people passing by. Finally I threw down my bag of clothes and sat on a bench. It would be nice to get to know my new friend. I pulled the camera from the bag. It was average. Not beat up, not scratched. I wondered what had gotten into my head to make me spend so much on something completely unnecessary. I put it up to my ear, listening to see if it would say something this time.
“…allowed to take pictures,” I heard.
“What?” I asked in my thoughts.
“No taking pictures here,” repeated the security guard who had appeared unexpectedly in front of me.
“I’m not taking any.”
“What do you mean, you’re not taking any? I can see that you have a camera.”
“I also have a penis but I’m not using it,” I joked. The security guard’s face hardened. He stood off to the side and watched my movements closely. I turned over the camera for a while longer and put it back in the case.
“Goodbye,” I said, rising and picking up the bag. He didn’t answer. He only glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. He followed me at a short distance.
“Great!” I thought. He’s going to make sure I don’t use any of that equipment we talked about.

I returned to the station. The platform was empty. An old pigeon with sparse feathers stared at me barefacedly. I nudged it with my foot. It warbled disgruntledly and left. I saw that an entire flock of pigeons was roaming the platform. They hovered around the few people, darting amongst their feet. When a passenger, lost in thought, would step on one of them, they did not scurry away violently or fly away, but just ran away, warbling.
“That’s nonsense. You have wings, brother, so fly!” I pronounced to the nearest one. “You’re insane. You’ll go out into the fresh air, fly among green trees, and you won’t rub up against any smeared shit.”
My ruminations were interrupted by an announcement for the approaching train. I went to the appropriate sector, leaving the bird to think about my advice. I found my compartment, threw my bag onto the shelf and sat in my seat. I looked out the window at the pensive pigeon.
“We’re going in circles. We travel the same paths over and over; closed in invisible cages we delude ourselves and pretend that if the need ever arose, we’d throw ourselves forward into the unknown. What we really are is cowards and even if we get away from the mother’s tit for a moment, fear makes us return to known paths. We bump into people, pretending to be giving them friendly hugs.” I closed my eyes and felt the train begin to move.