Image by Molly Baber
This is the one that kills me. As soon as I saw the charred attic door I knew it was going to be bad but there is nothing left! Tiles, some canister lids, an empty petrol can and that’s it. Some dust, some dirt, some footprints. All the reels of celluloid are gone, piled high in a corner they were and incinerated, each frame evaporating all the way up to the clouds. That’s what we could smell all over town: burning movies. For the older titles these were the sole copies, everyone knows that. It had been more of a museum than a local cinema. My family came here every week when it was popular. It had large fans that kept us cool on hot days. All my best memories were born here. The corny comedies that made me roar when I was little, the musicals that went on forever but got my father tapping his foot anyway and my mother dancing in her seat, the documentaries about our people, and about other people too and about the wars. The love stories I brought my dates to. The science fiction escapes. The monster movies. The more I reminisce, the more I see I’ve lost.
You say I need to look at all this defiantly, and I say Yes, yes, what of theirs can we attack, where are their childhood memories kept? What art do they hold dear? We’ll burn it all! You have that confused look on your face again and your nose scrunches and you laugh that I’ve misunderstood. Not defiantly, you said I need to look at this differently. I blame your accent and you blame my hearing.
There is a chair. The centre of the seat has been hacked out by something sharp but enough of the edge has survived for me to sit on and try to take all this in. There is just about room on the corner of the seat for you to perch on too and you do, our hips pressing hard together. You say something strange then, that Art is always the experience, never the thing itself.
And I say you might be in the wrong job. These had been precious, precious things I say, how are you so unmoved? Don’t you care that you will never see the films that raised me? You stand and take photographs and some measurements about the room. All this destruction, you say, all of it hurts like a lost lover but no more than that. And then you walk to what is left of the door. You say you’ll report there is nothing to save here. You say you will recommend demolition. It begins to rain, straight past the beams, and as you ring the office for the next wrecked site I raise my hands to touch the falling diluted fragments of all that once was. Movies are only a trick of the light, you say, you can’t hold light. Something fragile breaks between us.