A thing I am working on...
In one photo, Jude is in the foreground grasping the sledgehammer with his left hand. A vein is popping out of his forearm. He doesn’t have complete control of the tool; this is clear. The hammerhead is thrust against an upright 2x4 wall stud. Jude’s expression matches his popping vein. His mouth is open, in the midst of releasing an animal’s wild groan.
I can practically hear the sound, the way it emerges from the bottom of his gut. I’ve heard it resonate over and over this summer.
In the photo, printed on glossy Kodak paper, there is spit. If you look closely, you can see saliva suspended mid-air in front of his face. Though the image is black and white, you can tell that Jude’s eyes are bright blue set against tan skin, and you can tell that his hair, a bowl cut, is yellow-blond. His forehead is convulsed so creases intersect one another. Thick vertical lines of skin crash abruptly into horizontal lines; like the photo itself, his face conveys no pattern, just chaos.
Neil is there too, in the middle ground. He is a tiny blurry figure standing in another hollow room, leaning against a stud on another wall panel. His arms are held up over his shoulders, punctuated with little fists of victory. If you look at the print through a magnifying loop, you can see that – like Jude’s – Neil’s mouth is also wide open, but open in laughter, relinquishing the noise of menacing victory.
There are no trees to speak of, but I am there. A shadow. My legs, long, stretch from the bottom right corner of the frame diagonally over the concrete slab and vertical, bolted-in-place lumber until they meet the grey blur of my squat torso, from out of which an elbow pokes. The top middle of the frame cuts me off.
The 2x4 is busted, but at Jude’s mercy, it hasn’t fallen over yet. It isn’t even leaning.
In our boredom, we bust concrete foundations, bend rebar that sticks out of the chasms we break into the concrete. In the middle of the night, we knock down wall and ceiling frames before sheetrock and insulation and drywall can be raised by day. Smash these structures before electrical wiring can make the houses come alive. Before new families can inhabit these homes.
There are other images, too. The destruction we wreak at the construction site is well documented. My camera, a hand-me-down from my dad, captures all of our dismantling.
SONG: This Tornado Loves You, Neko Case