“Even the fish are trapped in a photograph, stuck in a time loop, in the moment before —before the adrenaline pumps, before life happens. And now, here they are. Trapped in a photograph forever, weighed down by dust bunnies.”
Art by: Josan Gonzalez
I went to the seamstress’s workshop today, wearing the patterned dress I wear too much already. But it’s navy blue and speckled with peach ship wheels and tan sailboats. And as though in the most perfect of worlds, even the golden zipper looks like a coral formation. I meandered away into the city, watched everyone else live their lives for a moment, reaching the quieter alleyways until, there it was, the workshop. Tucked away in a more obscure part of town, slotted in between houses coated in a film of smog.
It is not, by any means, a cheery workshop. Rolls of fabric leaning against the dull, not-so-white walls, cutoffs and stray threads discarded in heaps on the grimy tiled floor. Everything —the old, broken down sewing machines, the boxes and power outlets, even the water bottle— looks worse for wear.
Everything is so stagnant; it looks as though nothing has really moved in years. In my sleep-deprived state, I can almost visualise throwing the bottle in the air and the water not moving one bit. Even more painful to watch? The large A3 photograph that must once have been a bit beautiful. It’s all blue waters and yellow fish trying to break the surface, to emerge in a dazzling spray of ocean water into the blueness of the sky. But even that is frozen. Even the fish are trapped in a photograph, stuck in a time loop, in the moment before —before the adrenaline pumps, before life happens. And now, here they are. Trapped in a photograph forever, weighed down by dust bunnies.
It’s the kind of place you hate as a kid.
Because Time stands still, nothing moves, not even a wave of the imagination. But now, now that I am this…this adult who fears the passing of time…I don’t hate it. It feels like a saving point in a video game, like a place where nothing ever happens, where you could stay for a long while, knowing that you’ll be safe from the world, knowing that nothing will touch you. Maybe that’s why people choose lives like these. It’s unmoving, it’s safe.
But her, the seamstress, she’s not like that. She wears colours, purples and reds and oranges, and bangles that clink when she moves. She shows off gleaming dark ebony skin, her rotund arms and shoulders gleaming under the artificial light. There is just something about her. Maybe it is that she is young, probably around 27.
She isn’t done with the dress yet, which should have been done yesterday. So now, I have to wait.
I sit down on a stool, not-so-white and worn around the edges. It feels out of time. As though the curse of slow time and unmovingness was befalling me too. The sailboats and ship wheels on my dress are no longer moving. I am, after all, stagnant. So I tap my foot against the tile to keep the curse at bay, to prevent the dust from settling on me. Else I feel like I will be here forever, like her.
I watch her work from the corner of my eye — drat you, shyness— taken in a little by the whirring of the machine, the repetitive stabbing of the needle into the plum rose of my mother’s dress.
She must have a life, a brilliant (also, rude) part of my brain offers. She has already mentioned a mother. Perhaps she’s here because she’s waiting. Because she has to be safe for a while. Perhaps she’s waiting for someone, a fiancé who is a sailor (could that explain the photograph?) who is far away, burning under the sun, salt drying on his skin. Maybe she has plans to leave it all behind, this cursed workshop, the mountains of dust and cloth and disappear one day. Only, I would never know she was out, living in a coastal town in some other, faraway country, watching seabirds and ships, sewing uniforms and selling flowers on the side, smiling as she sees the ship bringing him back home.
But I’ll never know for sure, because I never ask.
It may all well be a lie. Maybe she will stay here forever. Maybe that’s why I don’t ask.
But now the dress is done and I’m still a bit of a child after all, so I run away, the dress and the sailboats and ship wheels fluttering in the wind.