‘Developer, blix, stabilisier,’ I say a little uncertain as I pick up the bottles filled with chemicals. ‘Yes. Dark blue for dev, red for blix like its colour, and light blue for stab, the clearest liquid,’ I remind myself of the rational behind my choice of bottles when I mixed the chemicals.
I carry them to the bathroom and slowly open the lid, my gestures slow to avoid any spillage. I rerun to the bedroom where I press play on an episode of Analogue Wonderland television
, direct the sound to a Bluetooth speaker and begin developing film. First up is the roll I shot a few days earlier in my pinhole camera.
I glance over at my notes for reassurance but really I know what to do. Fifth roll, I remind myself. Add more time.
A headache is growing on the left side of my face as I pour chemicals and invert the developing tank. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing. I know this headache, it comes every month. First it creeps behind my left eye before descending to my jaw, settling there in a dull constant ache. I ignore it for now, hoping it will go. I know it won’t unless I take some paracetamol but each time I can’t help but take a gamble.
Two hours later, I’m out of the bathroom, exposed rolls of films dangling from a string attached to the shower head and curtain rail. The pinhole roll worked out. There are images. They seem a bit underexposed but nothing I can’t fix while scanning the negatives. Still, it would be nice to get better exposure next time. Next to it are two rolls of 35mm films. One of them is filled with Christmas lights and decorations, the other of scenes from the countryside I do not recognise in the small frames in front of me. It’s been too long since I shot them.
The headache is still here, the left side of my face throbbing persistently. I leave the negatives alone, grab the box of paracetamol in the study and swallow the painkiller. I sit on the sofa bed behind the desk and close my eyes, waiting for the pain to go. Helped by the dissolving chemicals of medicine, the headache goes away, hidden behind a numb protecting wall.
Later, I stand in my local park, one I have come to know so well, and play badminton for a while. The dynamics of people have changed. Groups gather to play football or volleyball, young lovers wrap their arms around each other away from parents prying eyes, and I remain within my safety bubble. My partner and I, distanced from other people in the park, letting the shuttlecock fly between socially distant gulls desperate for human food discards.