Deep underground in a pit filled with developer and fixer, Jana and I found each other.
We were both studying abroad in Paris this past semester, taking classes at the same crazy photography studio near Bastille. It was a strange little place run by an old man called Philippe. There was too much English, occasional homemade cookies and cakes waiting for us, two full studios, a shy cat, and, underneath a trapdoor on the floor of the second studio, a cramped darkroom where Jana and I worked once a week.
The "submarine", as Philippe affectionately nicknamed the darkroom, was barely wide enough to fit the two of us sometimes, but twice as long as it was wide. I would hit my head coming out of the hatch and I've definitely fallen down the stairs before coming in and out. The wash bath was constantly swirling with dozens of near identical prints, mostly Jana's fault. The chemical baths were of questionable concentrations, mostly my fault. Poorly ventilated. Steep, almost ladder-like stairs. A radio that had terrible reception. And there definitely was no lightproof barrier against the outside world.
But that place became ours over the course of the semester, quand meme.
We spent endless hours in that darkroom together. We talked about living in Paris and being away from home. We texted each other endlessly as we constantly botched social interactions in French. We talked about Adam and David, Jacob and Hunter. We took necessary near hourly escapes to get bakery snacks near St Paul and hide from Philippe, who would descend into our refuge every once in a while to meddle and drive us insame. I might have fainted once. Jana was always incredibly neurotic. I only ever played my music. She would get irritable when not properly fed. Despite it all, we became each other's lifeline through everything. Both of us were falling in love with the city and with a man at the same time. And without even realizing it, each other.