Wednesday, August 9

The Nurse, Part IV/Epilogue

The calculation, if correct, and carried out during my first cigarette break of Monday morning, determined that there were one-hundred-and-twenty photographs to get developed. At lunchtime the shop was quite quiet, and the counter available straight away, without waiting. The fourth roll was hidden at the bottom of my bag and after some rummaging it was presented with the other three; unburdened pillars of yellow & black. He told me the photographs would be ready at five o’clock – three hours – and I told him to have a good day. Although the summer had declined, there was some strange sunlight drifting down through the white clouds. I thought of one-hundred-and-twenty photographs. After work I went back to the shop, careful to be there before six – closing time – and paid. I was served by the girl I like, because she reminds me of an old friend and that is why I like her; the brute strength of her glare, broad shoulders, a nose that asks you questions and pokes your ribs like a child. I went to the shop to buy ingredients for dinner. When I got home, I washed my hands and sat on the toilet to look at the photographs.
The photographs were in four chapters: a set of walks around London and Hyde Park; a set of a walk around the Tate on a Sunday; and a family gathering. I knew that in there, somewhere, were several photographs I had taken of the nurse. In a strange way I both anticipated and dreaded coming across them. It was not so long that I could not remember the time I had taken them, that Saturday night, when I had lifted the camera from my bookshelf, where it had rested neatly in the shade, and held it to her. ‘No,’ she said, covering her face, smiling. So, I took a photograph of her feet upon the coffee table; painted toes in a cool colour of green.
That’s it.
I thought that that was it; that the photographs I had taken of her were innocent and suitable for national broadcast. Her toes, her feet, her ankles. I find feet unsightly, until I see a pair of feet that I like, and then I think they are a perfect denouement to the human body.
She was curled up on the sofa and she was laughing, but it was all out of focus, all motion and distortion; colours – millions of them – blurring together in a million parallel swirls. Ah yes, I remember that smile – I remember that moment.
Then the photograph I did not remember taking.
In a hidden dictionary somewhere it describes how much of a person need be included in a picture before it becomes a portrait, when it swings for the capture of a body part to incomplete portraiture. If I could get hold of such a dictionary I could ascertain which category this particular photograph fell into. It was a bold photograph, no doubt about that, and made no secret of the subject. Surely the attendant developing the film (see paragraph i) would have uttered—‘Gosh,’ if only silently.
Her tanlines caught in the flash serve only to further emphasise the exclamation mark of her hair and sex. The nurse is walking toward me, fresh from the toilet as I smoked and topped up our glasses of vodka. Her arms are swinging, her left foot forward, her hair thickens at the tip of her vulva as she flings a shadow at the wall off the tiniest purse of labia. A shadow from the flash, a flush of blood. Why is all of her skin so smooth and perfect, without a single mark of mole or freckle? She returns to me. I stub out. She puts her elbows and knees on the bed. I put the camera down.
My hands trembled as I held the forgotten photograph. I folded it back into the others. A feeling of nausea overcame me and I thought that I was a clown for it all. No more surprises. I was done.

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