Johnny America


Ansel Adams Has Acne


I catch him at the start of his ca­reer. He’s young, wear­ing a Wal-Mart aisle 12 black turtle­neck un­der his apron. He doesn’t look up when I ap­proach. Some­one else’s film is on the pro­cess­ing reel and there is an Andy Warhol Fac­to­ry group clus­tered around him as he out­lines the im­ages. I imag­ine naked beach shots or beer bot­tles or blur­ry sex shots or maybe a cute dog.

I think about my film. Is there a beach wardrobe mal­func­tion or a pic­ture of my dirty bath­room? He winks at me. I want him to Where’s Wal­do? my film, look for striped shirt self­ies, or see me pos­ing over bub­bles in the bath­tub. I want him to gig­gle over naugh­ti­ness or dirt­i­ness or dirty naugh­ti­ness or dirty hair tak­en in an im­age by mis­take. I do and I don’t want him and his teenage art bud­dies to view my im­ages like a clothes­line of un­der­wear but I have in­clud­ed some shots of my un­der­wear drawer.

I stand ex­pec­tant­ly in front of this child-man that holds my life in his hands, two plas­tic rolls like dice.

Come back in three weeks.

I have more film, dis­pos­able cam­eras of wed­dings and friends and moun­tain views that I found in a for­got­ten suit­case. I want to whis­per that there’s more but it’s too late. An­oth­er per­son stands at the counter grip­ping their film with sweaty palms. 

I ex­it through toi­let pa­per with the claim strip scrawled in his Sharpie artist’s signature. 

What would Ansel want me to do?

Where is the best light?

How should I pose my arms?

At home, I hear his edge-of-crack­ing voice in­struct­ing me, at the beach, in the gro­cery store as the mo­tion lights come on and mu­sic plays. I am more re­laxed with each wind click wind click wind click. I search for the best an­gle, a come-hith­er look that will trans­fer through film. A self­ie of my­self in the sand, in front of build­ings squish­ing im­pos­si­ble peaks and roofs with my fin­gers. I pay at­ten­tion to my wardrobe choic­es and styling. No sou­venir t‑shirts. I don’t want to look like a tourist. I stand in front of my garage in my swim team swim­suit, the red one like the ones the Bay­watch girls wear. When I stuff the top sec­tion with Kleenex, I can al­most pull off the il­lu­sion that I guard swim­mers with my life and my boobs and my easy run­ning style.

In three weeks, I come back to him with twelve more rolls of film. Wed­ding out­takes. Moun­tain vis­tas wor­thy of a slideshow carousel. Dog pho­tos. Campbell’s soup cans from a dis­tance and up close. An even more up-close look at my car’s head­lights and my eye­lash­es— a guess­ing game for Ansel and his buddies.

It isn’t the kismet mo­ment I imag­ine. He’s gone. And the sign Film Pro­cess­ing is gone with him. I gasp when I see the new sign.

Hear­ing Aids

I imag­ine my teenage Sven­gali has an ex­hib­it some­where, per­haps in his base­ment, with stolen im­ages of strangers clothes­pinned against wood pan­el­ing. On the way out, I see him hawk­ing cell phones and their pow­er­ful cameras.

Filed under Fiction on October 1st, 2021

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