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Her fingers trembled as she threaded the film into the projector.  Juliana paused before turning the projector on; there was always a terrible, conflicting tension inside before she watched a new film for the first time.  Part of it - most of it - was a fear that she was about to watch something horrible, something somehow worse than the day-to-day happenings of the world she already lived in.  But there was a part of her that was anticipating whatever was about to come, good or bad.  If bad, she would be devastated for awhile, would find herself obsessively replaying the film over and over in her head for the next several days; but, she had found, it would also make the next few days after that seem a little better in comparison.

If good, of course, there was a momentary joy, a buoyancy that would fill her from top to bottom.  She would float along, remembering it, smiling to herself when she thought no one was watching.  But every coin has two sides, and the come-down from a good film, from a hopeful film, from a just film, could be awful indeed.  Juliana thought it was worth it, though.  A good film, once she got over a momentary depression from comparing that world to the one in which she lived instead, could fuel her for a long time.  She would never forget the very first film she watched - seeing the American soldiers storm the beaches of France, seeing their bombs dropped on German cities.  Juliana had never seen anything so beautiful, and those sights had driven her with a relentless fury through the hardest days of her entire life.

A final breath, and she flicked the switch.  She watched the film, projected on a slightly dingy sheet hanging on the wall.  When it was over, and it wasn't very long, Juliana moved the reels and watched the film again.  And again.  By the sixth time, she realized she was no longer really watching it, that her mind had drifted away, thinking, imagining, so she hid the film, boxed the projector back up, took down the sheet, and spent ten minutes cleaning, her mind still racing.

She walked outside.  It was a clear night, and the moon overhead was full.  Juliana stared up at it.  She could still see, just as if the dingy sheet hanged above her, the man in the big puffy suit coming down the ladder; she could see his funny, bobbing steps; she could see the American flag, the Stars and Stripes that one never saw anymore, as stiff as if it had been starched for a week, planted in that alien soil.  Juliana looked up at the moon, where in some distant world, in some different time, men had walked; she looked until her tears blinded her.

January 2017

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