Entering that darkroom’s like slipping through the barrel of a rifle. I step into the chamber, pull the black galvanized door behind me and lean into the revolving door. The caster rollers rattle, the rubber around the door releases with a whoosh, and I pass into the safe darkness. It’s quiet as a tomb, comfortable as a womb. I’ve fallen out of the gun barrel into my own silent midnight.
There’s a long line in the ER and the techs are talking loudly about it. During the late shift, the odd cases show up: bullet wounds, knifings, oddly-placed hematomas. Tonight we’ll see the city’s underbelly, tomorrow they will go back into hiding.
The technicians slide me their film cartridges and I get working. I move Zen-like in the dark. I’m Gollum under the mountain, a mole; I’m fast, efficient, in control. When they’re busiest, I slide out and clip their films to the light boxes. Then I return, to my quiet dark room.
When the shift ends, I keep the lights off. I lean against the counter, sipping coffee. Outside, the sun begins to rise. Outside my door, the techs discuss the woman with insect eggs in her sinus cavity, the man irretractably coupled with a vacuum cleaner. I’ve released the lock on the barrel and a fine border of white fluorescence falls across the toes of my boots. I leave last, taking the back roads to avoid the crawling columns of cars on the highway.