We were still living in that crowded apartment when I was nine. My father had turned my bedroom into his darkroom, and had spray painted the windows black and filled my pink and purple space with plastic buckets of expensive, noxious alums and egg yolk yellow toning solutions. I wasn’t to supposed to get the liquids on my skin, which was hard not to do because I was terribly clumsy and my room was already terribly small, so I started moving my toys out into the hallway. My Barbies moved to a pink with green polka dot canvas shopping bag that I carried around the apartment with me, and my markers, crayons, paints and pencils I shoved under the bathroom sink. I had also taken to dragging my blankets and pillow and Rainbow Bright into the hallway with the rest of my things and sleeping out there. My room was compromised. It was a nucleus of creation and transformation and it wasn’t mine anymore. The smell was strong, and the developing prints dripped all over my carpet, but I wasn’t afraid of my lungs filling with fumes and giving out on me while I slept. I was afraid of what might happen if I opened the door at the wrong time and ruined one of Dad’s prints. His work hadn’t been at the level it once had been, not since my mom had floated here from there.
In the hall, when I tried to sleep, the cold blue light of the television served as a flickering night-light. My mother, the fallen-down-muse, stayed up late watching garbage television and waiting for my father to come home, twirling her brittle bleached hair around her thin fingers and raising her eyebrows and drinking glasses of Strawberry Quick (which was usually gone before I got any). My dad usually left to take night shots of the city right after dinner, so his absence was usually more familiar than his presence. I still waited up for him along with my mom, though. I waited with my eyes wide open, listening but not listening to whatever my mom was watching, tucked beneath my blankets, my thin hips aching from lying on the floor instead of on my soft mattress. Sometimes he didn’t come home all night, and on those nights my mom dragged me from the hall into their bed with the jumbled grey and black comforter, and we listened for the click of the key in the lock together, each of us only pretending to sleep.