There was a back stairway from the kitchen to the second-storey hall and they took Brita's jacket and bag and equipment case and went up that way. She glimpsed pantry shelves set into the wall and more of Bill's reader mail, thick boxed files labeled by month and year. She followed Scott through the door and across the hall. This was Brita's room.
In the bedroom downstairs Karen sat up watching TV. Scott came in and began undressing.
"Long day," she said.
"Let me tell you."
"All that driving, you must be really."
He put on pajamas and got into bed and she reached over and turned off the lamp. Then she picked up the remote control and lowered the volume on the TV, touch touch touch, until it was totally off. Scott's head was flat in the pillow and he was already halfway gone. She was watching the world news of the day. On any given day it was mainly the film footage she wanted to see and she didn't mind watching without sound. It was interesting how you could make up the news as you went along by sticking to picture only.
She sees men and boys at first, a swarming maleness, a thickness of pressed-together bodies. Then a crowd, thousands, filling the screen. It looks like slow motion but she knows it isn't. It is real time with bodies pressed and heaving, like bodies rolling in a sea swell, several arms raised above the crowd. They show bodies at odd angles. They show men standing off to the side somewhere, watching sort of half interested. She sees a great straining knot of people pressed to a fence, forced massively forward. They show the metal fence and bodies crushed against it, arms upflung. They show the terrible slow straining and heaving. What is it called, writhing? The camera is just outside the fence shooting straight in through the heavy-gauge steel wire. She sees men far back actually climbing on top of the mass of bodies, two men crawling on all the heads and shoulders. She sees the crowd pushed toward the fence and people at the fence pressed together and terribly twisted. It is an agony of raised and twisted arms and suffering faces. They show men calmly watching. They show men in shorts and jerseys, soccer players wearing those high stockings they wear, standing in the grass. There are bodies packed solid, filling the screen, and people barely moving at the fence, pressed and forced into one twisted position. She sees a boy in a white cap with a red peak and he has an expression on his face of what a nice day or here I am on my way home from school and they are dying all around him, they are writhing and twisted with open mouths and bloated tongues showing. Soccer is called football abroad. She sees the fence up close and they stop the film and it is like a religious painting, the scene could be a fresco in a tourist church, it is composed and balanced and filled with people suffering. She sees the faces of a woman and a girl and the large hand of a man behind them, the woman's wet tresses, her arm twisted against the steel strands of the fence, the girl crushed and buckled under someone's elbow, the boy in the white cap with red peak standing in the midst, in the crush, only now he senses, his eyes are shut, he senses he is trapped, his face is reading desperation. She sees people caught in strangleholds of no intent, arms upflung, faces popping out at her, hands trying to reach the fence but only floating in the air, a man's large hand, a long-haired boy in a denim shirt with his back to the fence, the face of the woman with the tresses hidden behind her own twisted arm, nails painted glossy pink, a girl or woman with eyes closed and tongue showing, dying or dead. In people's faces she sees the hopelessness of knowing. They show men calmly looking on. They show the fence from a distance, bodies piling up behind it, smothered, sometimes only fingers moving, and it is like a fresco in an old dark church, a crowded twisted vision of a rush to death as only a master of the age could paint it.
Brita unpacked the quartz light and screwed it into the top of the portable stand. She was nervous and kept a soft patter going. Bill stood against the wall waiting. He wore work pants and an old sweater, a thick-bodied man with a battered face and smoky hair combed straight back in wide tracks, going faintly yellow at the fringes. She felt the uneasy force, the strangeness of seeing a man who had lived in her mind for years as words alone-the force of a body in a room. She almost could not look at him. She looked indirectly, trying to conceal her glances in flurries of preparation. She thought he might have settled into an oldness, into ways of gesture and appearance that were deeper than his countable years. He watched her handle the equipment, looking past her into another moment somewhere. Already she sensed he was disappearing from the room.
"I'm going to bounce light off this wall and then you can go stand over there and I'll get my camera and stand over here and that's all there is to it."
There was a typewriter on a desk and sheets of oversized sketch paper taped to the walls and the lower half of one of the windows. These were charts, master plans evidently, the maps of his work-in-progress, and the sheets were covered with scrawled words, boxes, lines connecting words, tiny writing in the boxes. There were circled numbers, crossed-out names, a cluster of stick-figure drawings, a dozen other cryptic markings. She saw notebooks stacked on the radiator cover. There were drifts of paper on the desk, a mound of crumpled butts in the ashtray.
"There's something about writers. I don't know why but I feel I ought to know the person as well as the work and so ordinarily I try to schedule a walk beforehand, just to chat with the person, talk about books, family, anything at all. But I understand you'd rather not go on and on with this, so we'll work quickly."
"We can talk."
"Are you interested in cameras? This is an eighty-five-millimeter lens."
"I used to take pictures. I don't know why I stopped. One day it just ended forever."
"I guess it's true to say that something else is ending forever."
"You mean the writer comes out of hiding."
"Am I right that it's thirty years since your picture has appeared anywhere?"
"Scott would know."
"And together you decided the time has come."
"Well it's a weariness really, to know that people make so much of this. When a writer doesn't show his face, he becomes a local symptom of God's famous reluctance to appear."
"But this is intriguing to many people."
"It's also taken as an awful sort of arrogance."
"But we're all drawn to the idea of remoteness. A hard-to-reach place is necessarily beautiful, I think. Beautiful and a little sacred maybe. And a person who becomes inaccessible has a grace and a wholeness the rest of us envy."
"The image world is corrupt, here is a man who hides his face."
"Yes," she said.
"People may be intrigued by this figure but they also resent him and mock him and want to dirty him up and watch his face distort in shock and fear when the concealed photographer leaps out of the trees. In a mosque, no images. In our world we sleep and eat the image and pray to it and wear it too. The writer who won't show his face is encroaching on holy turf. He's playing God's own trick."
"Maybe he's just shy, Bill."
Through the viewfinder she watched him smile. He looked clearer in the camera. He had an intentness of gaze, an economy, and his face was handsomely lined and worked, embroidered across the forehead and at the corners of the eyes. So often in her work the human shambles was remade by the energy of her seeing, by the pure will that the camera uncovered in her, the will to see deeply.
"Shall I tell you something?"