THE darkroom is a pleasant place, cool and quiet. When the door is closed no one may enter for fear of spoiling the work in progress. This conveys a pleasant sensation of privacy in the midst of bustle, as though I have become invisible. The feeling of isolation is enhanced by dim red lighting and the masking sound of running water. I could be anywhere. After a while the red light seems normal, and all sensation of color vanishes. People seem ghostly and their skin glows unnaturally pale and smooth.

The room is below grade, and the floor is wet and dirty from decades of spilled chemicals and groundwater seeping through the foundation. In winter, my hands feel like blocks of ice after prolonged contact with the water and chemicals. An old electrical heater makes something of a dent in the overall chill, but this has no effect on my hands. The increasing cold forces me occasionally to step outside into the bright, noisy world and run warm water over my hands, and the contrast is as sharp as though I had abruptly stepped from one world into another; as though I had again become visible and all my thoughts and actions were open to whoever cared to see them. When my hands are warm I again retreat to the secret, red erotic silence.

January 6, 1997