"Why the hell would you take a picture like that?" Micah holds the photograph by one flimsy corner and squints at it.
I look over her shoulder at the shot. It's a list of names next to stained apartment house buzzers. "Someone famous lives there?"
"Famous and what?" Micah says. "German? Italian?"
"French. Look at all the extra Ts and Es."
Besides which, the architectural details in the same batch. Micah's been working here for three years, but she hasn't learned much beyond refilling chemicals and unwedging jams.
Me, I've been all over the world in photographs. I've made it my business to learn the difference between Prague and Paris by the faces of the buildings.
"I don't know," Micah points a violet fingernail. "Look at this one: Aribi. Or that one: Aliotti."
As if America is the only county in the world people immigrate to. The address beneath the panel of names is 33 Rue de L'Ouest.
I crack my gum in her ear, turn around in the close quarters of the FotoRama kiosk, and pull down a box of deposit envelopes. I do wonder why, if you could go to Paris, you'd bring a shot like that back to pass around the office.
If I could get there—if I could get anywhere—I'd ask people to point my sleek new digital at me while I did kooky poses by serious statues. I once processed batch of the same San Francisco landmarks everyone shoots, but with this wild female dancing all around them.
I hope whoever was photographing her loves her for that, and doesn't yell at her for never taking anything seriously; not even Alcatraz, which is probably the most serious thing on the whole west coast. Because there she was in Cell Block A, pointing like John Travolta, the flash glinting off her hair.
It made me want to be her.
"Pack these for me, okay?" Micah says, handing me Paris. "I'm taking my break."
It's better than counting envelopes. The manager only wants fifteen to twenty-five out at any given time. He's from back east, where they have Humidity. He's sure the envelopes will seal themselves if we let them sit out too long. He's forever sticking pictures of snow in my face and saying, "Now, that's weather."
Like 120 degree Santa Ana winds aren't just as impressive.
Micah heads for the 7-11, where she'll fray a movie magazine and cruise the cashier for way more than her fifteen minute break.
I flip the lock behind her and turn to the machine. Instead of ejecting the flash card, I run a second batch. Absolutely forbidden.
My breath fogs the printer's chrome trim as I lean over the assembling images. I need the names handwritten next to the buzzers in round, uneven cursive. I need the cracked storefront lettering, the eggs in a wire basket.
I need to be this other way of seeing; need it suddenly, like my breath and bones.