• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 09
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The Future Has Stalled

"Not until she apologises."

"Do I look like I'm about to apologise to him?"

"Guys, guys," I say, "I'm just here to take the pictures."

"Which you can't do," says Jeffrey, triumphantly, "until she gets her act together."

Half an hour I've been waiting while the pair of them bicker. Jeffrey honoured by the part he's playing in the city's glorious future, Tanya a jobbing actress who's agreed to dress as our reclusive leader for the afternoon and put in a personal appearance. Tanya, who has called into question Jeffrey's beliefs.

"They're all as bad as each other," she says, revisiting a salvo from twenty minutes ago. "I can't be doing with politics, nothing's worth getting yourself that worked up about."

There's more boredom than belligerence coming from her now so I step in, becoming the peacekeeper I hadn't wanted to be.

"Right," I say, "so it's not worth losing your fee over is it? I'm sure you didn't mean to hurt Jeffrey's feelings." She did, I saw it in her eyes. "And Jeffrey, you wouldn't want to delay this and anger the crowd, would you?"

They both glare at me, briefly united in shared contempt, but finally Jeffrey's expert hands start draping, tucking, pinching and pinning, and when Tanya shuffles off the table she stands up as someone else. I lift the camera, mesmerised, then remember I'm not supposed to do close-ups, or any shot that glances behind the curtain. There must be no evidence of the deception.

"Ready to go upstairs?" I say.


The Future Has Stalled

We watch Tanya make her way to the main balcony. The crowd won't see her trainers behind the parapet. Jeffrey follows me to a suite a few windows along the building, where we should get a prime view of Tanya smiling and waving for ten minutes. Her fee is higher than mine - nice work if you can get it.

Jeffrey mutters constantly about Tanya's posture, rudeness, unsuitability for the task, distracting me so that when I hear the crack I'm confused for a second, wondering why they'd bother with fireworks in daylight.

"Oh!" Jeffrey's hands flutter by his face like a benedictory dove, and I know it's the careful folds and delicate fabric he's mourning.

"Damn," I breathe. Is it wrong to photograph a dying actress? Are we still supposed to pretend this is the real thing and not a stand-in? "I guess that's why she's a recluse."