This duet is surrounded by a story written by Christopher De Voss with Long Awkward Pause. The picture is of my friend Kristina Hickman and taken at an abandoned rail maintenance station in El Reno, Oklahoma. I really love how this simple duet turned into a complete piece of mixed media. Please visit Long Awkward Pause and give them a much deserved follow!Written by Christopher De Voss and Hastywords
On the south side of Hampton stood the projects.
The projects were several blocks of German brick townhouses and single story shops that were now vacant. It was once an artsy neighborhood where the upper middle class lived and played. You could walk out your front door, then walk down the street to the local wine and cheese shop for a quick sample every Saturday. Over the sound system some new age music of some sort or other would be playing, as young couples leafed through pamphlets and newsletters lining the window sill. All the while eating bites of brie cheese on a whole wheat cracker.
Now, the windows were broken. The pamphlets littered the floor. The interior of the store, hollow and lonely. Without the light of the sun, the place looked like a brick skull with a missing nose, right where the door should have been.
Steve stood at the intersection of Holt and Merryberry. On one side of him stood a row of two story townhouses, and on the other was the former shops and art galleries. Steve was a photographer. He had a natural eye for light and shadow. What was really remarkable was that he only used his smart phone to take his pictures. You would swear he was using one of those cameras with that great big huge lens that you only see when someone is taking a picture of a professional photographer taking a picture of something else…usually a lion or a tiger hunting game in the wild. Steve was here to shoot abandon buildings. He wanted to portray the eerie gloom they cast off, but was also hoping to capture a little bit of romanticism beneath the emptiness. The sun would be setting in an
hour or two, giving him just the right light in his pictures to cast long shadows from the broken window panels and the cavities that once held nicely painted wooden doors. It was just a matter of finding that perfect structure that whispered of days past, where people walked in and out of the habitat…hand in hand, laughing, smiling…breathing.
Time was against him though.
Steve made his way down Merrberry street, the street that held the stores. He would know the perfect building when he saw it, although he really didn’t know what he was looking for. He walked along the pavement, his hiking boots kicking little loose pebbles up off the gravel, his head surveying left and right.
Most of the buildings were covered with graffiti or “tags”. Big and ugly were most of them. They were either big bubble letters that you had to squint in order to make out what the individual letters were, or they were the opposite. Letters with harsh turns and lighting bolt angles. Sort of what a heavy metal band might use to spell out their name on an vinyl album cover depicting pictures of skulls and women in black leather bikinis.
Steve came upon a building with the windows and door intact. The windows were the big plate glass kind that might display mannequins dressed in wedding gowns or antique toys and paintings of barns on wooden easels. The windows displayed nothing now. Except in this one window, a sign was taped to the inside of it, on the upper right. It looked fairly new and was written in neat block letters. On it was the phrase:
‘They say we are young
That we don’t know’
“Sonny and Cher,” thought Steve. “What a random thing to post.”
What was even more random, Steve was just starting to realize, was that this building was relatively undamaged.
The whole block, hell the whole neighbor was a vast barren land of cracked dreams and empty shadows covered in spray paint.
Steve pulled out his smart phone and checked the light. He started taking pictures. He took them quick, like he always did. Changing filters expertly as he shot every angle of the building, including the lyric from the song. Steve checked the picture gallery after taking about 40 shots.
They were all blurry!
Every single photo was just a mesh of gray and yellows and jagged streaks…except the lyrics. They came out crystal clear.
“What’s wrong with this phone?” Steve said out loud and frustrated. He turned the phone over in his hands, check the camera’s lens for cracks or smudges, which their were none. He took off the back cover, removed the battery, and replaced it again. He turned the phone back on.
Steve took another picture after the software loaded.
He expected it.
Steve tried the door. It was unlocked. He turned the handle and walked in.
The inside of the store was empty but pristine. Just a little dusty. A counter stood in the middle with a cash register on it. Other than that, the room was bare…except the far wall.
They were covered in the same neat block script from ceiling to floor. He didn’t recognized the words. They were not the rest of the Sonny and Cher song, but they were beautiful. It was a complete juxtaposition to the rest of the neighborhood.
All the ways the world
Can crawl inside
How it enters our hearts
How it starts to grow
How it whispers our name
How it begins to confide
Maybe we are just naive
Can’t possibly understand
All the ways this life
Can tear at our seams
We tend to paint illusions
Bending our perceptions
We fight for the chaos
Because without we are lost
We find ways to survive
We find ways to withstand
We don’t turn our back
We try not to deny
Instead we take a breath
And reach deep down inside
Feeling the call
Feeling the tug
We look to the horizon
Shielding our eyes
We try letting go
Of the wisdom of age
“Wow,” whispered Steve. He took pictures of the wall, and even though he had a feeling everything would turn out blurry, he started taking pictures off the rest of the room.
He was right.
Steve put down the phone on the counter. It was really dusty, but it didn’t matter if the phone was broken anyway. He went over the inspect the poem closer. The letters were painted in rough paint, that you could see the swirls of the brush in, and trace it with your fingers. Steve saw a woman from the corner of his eye.
Startled Steve backed into the counter.
“Hey! You scared me!” he said.
The woman just stood there in the shadows, hard to make out. Her hair was long, and she wore a grey long sundress…maybe even a hat. It was too hard to tell. She stood there motionless and expressionless.
Then, out of nowhere, she started to dance. Her arms extended, she twirled and glided. She danced the whole room. It didn’t matter that there was no music. You could tell she heard it in her head. It didn’t matter that Steve was there. You could tell she didn’t care.
She danced right through Steve and out the wall.
Steve felt his chest in disbelief. He looked to the solid wall where the woman…apparently…danced through. He was not a believer of ghosts. He was more of a believer in drunken hallucinations and drug fueled dreams.
He ran outside. The purple and orange hues of the setting sun cast long shadows from the buildings.
The woman danced in the street. She was joined by other specters pouring from the abandoned buildings like a see-through flood. They all danced to the music only they could hear.
Steve stood slack. He felt dizzy. He had to lay down.
He dropped to one knee slowly, and then laid down on the dusty dirty pavement, arms spread. The see-through apparitions danced over his body. He felt light and sick at the same time. The ghost’s feet traveled through his chest, his legs, his head. Steve heard their whispered voices as they past through him.
“We are one….you are one…you are the next verse…you are the verse….you will be our verse…”
Steve watched as his body became clear and start to dissipate starting at his feet. It didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel like anything. His body turned into streaks of light and heaven and traveled into the little store. The words on the wall glowed and hummed, and what used to be Steve’s body became the next verse:
So we can embrace once again
The innocence born of our youth
Then Steve joined the dance.