In high school I took a class on graphic arts. We learned how to operate an offset press, make rubber stamps, layout different types of publication, and most importantly develop film. The photography aspect was the only reason I took the class.

There was a girl in my class named Jennifer. Jennifer had been in a couple of my other classes and I had always gotten along with her fairly well. She was a pretty girl with dark features. Black hair, brown eyes, olive skin, nice body. I guess the only reason I wasn't head-over-heels for her was that she was dating a friend of mine when we met so our relationship quickly went the "just friends" route... like 99.9 percent of every girl I meet. But thats another writeup for another day.

So the class gets split up into 4 groups. There are 4 different units to study and each group rotates from unit to unit. Jennifer is in my group. We kid and chat often, helping each other and generally socializing like everyone else in the class.

After several weeks it is our turn to do the photography unit. We spend a week walking around the school grounds with 35mm cameras trying to fnd interesting subjects of photographs. Mostly we snapped photos of our favorite teachers and friends. The next week we were to develop our rolls of film in the dark room.

Because of time limitations, the group had to split into pairs and each pair was to share the darkroom and help each other work. So Jennifer and I paired off, and went into the darkroom to develop our rolls of film.

I already know where you think I'm going with this, but I'm not. Going into the dark room with a beautiful girl sounds much more scandalous than it really was. Not that I wasn't thinking the same things you are at the time, but it just wasn't like that.

The first thing I noticed about the darkroom was that the light was not red like it is in darkrooms on TV. It was actually a yellow light. Very dim, amber colored. It is very hard to see by this light.

Our first hour in the darkroom was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. When the regular lights shut off, the room was the blackest dark you can imagine. There is no trace of light anywhere. her voice trailed out of nothing as she laughed about not being able to find the other light switch to turn on the yellow light. Then...

click

The yellow light came on and I was facing a completely different person. I swear, I would not have recognized her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Shadows fell everywhere in the dimness. She struck me silent and stupid. I forgot where I was.

For the next hour I fumbled with the photographic paper and negatives, trying to seem as normal as possible. The actual project was just a distraction. I took every opportunity to look at her. Every time she spoke I would stop what I was doing to stare at her. She had become a goddess. I was infatuated and helpless. She actually had to do most of the work, I couldn't remember anything we had learned. How long to expose the paper. How to operate the light-shiny-through-the-negative-machine. Where the paper was stored. How to cut the paper. How to tie my shoes, tell time, swallow my own saliva. I really did become a bumbling fool in the darkroom.

After our hour was up, we put away all of the light sensitive materials and switched on the regular lights. I closed my eyes as I flipped the switch because I didn't want to witness her transformation back into my friend. I think some part of me wanted to keep the darkroom-Jennifer and the daylight-Jennifer physically seperate. This is how it worked for the next two weeks. I looked forward all day to seeing darkroom-Jennifer. I saw daylight-Jennifer several times throughout the day, but there was only that fleeting hour each day I got to spend with her alter-ego. Each time, I would close my eyes or look away. Never actually seeing her as the lights changed. She was two people to me.

After the photography unit, we went to something else, the offset press I think. She joked about how bad I was at photography. How I could never remember anything and that she saved my ass on that unit.

If she only knew.

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