Real Estate

She went in and headed straight to her desk. Her MacBook was already turned on. She opened her backpack and took out the camera.

She closed her eyes. She is eight years old, wearing a summer dress, and her father gives her the camera just before he gets into a car and drives away. “Take good care of it,” he tells her. “It can do magic.”

She loaded the memory card, and the screen got filled with dozens of tiny dark photos. She knew exactly what she was looking for. It was just an hour ago when she stood in front of that old building — so old it was a miracle it was still standing. It had been standing there for who knows how long, waiting for its turn to be discovered. By her.

She loves the feeling of getting lost in the less attractive parts of the city, like an explorer, and then finding such a treasure. A magical building, ignored by most people, calling her. A building not suitable for living, keeping the stories of all the people who have found shelter in it. A ruin for most — a home for few.

She found the file she was looking for. The screen went black for a few seconds before it was filled with her latest treasure. She had all the time in the world to get familiar with it. She stared at her monitor, hypnotized by the details she had managed to miss. She followed each crack and fell in love with every broken window. She imagined the people living in it, looking at her from the inside. Her eyes moved across the screen, swallowing the pixels.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and started to work.

When she was sixteen, she took a photography workshop. She hated every minute of it. Everyone was so excited, but she didn’t see the magic in a bowl of apples, a vase with flowers, or even a live model. She wanted to capture something real. She wanted to tell its story and give it a second chance. She waited for each class to finish so she could take the longest route possible to her apartment and hope that something would call her name.

She started with the windows. Many of them were broken, leaving the inside to the grace of the weather. She zoomed in on one and carefully began to fix it, pixel by pixel. Glass was never easy, but it was December, and it got colder by the day. She continued with the other windows on the first floor. The higher floors were probably more challenging targets for the bored kids.

She went on with filling the endless cracks in the walls and carefully painting over the numerous layers of graffiti. She wanted to leave some nice or funny one intact so that the building would have a memory of its past life. But this particular building was probably less attractive for serious street artists. Instead, it was a canvas for anybody who thought they had something clever to say. She fixed the doors and gently painted some flowers in what used to be a small garden. She worked on the entrance and straightened some stairs. She lightened up the stairway and repainted the number of the building so guests could find it.

And that’s when she noticed the piece of paper, printed with large black letters, hastily glued to the gate. It was a short obituary. She took her hand off the mouse without moving her eyes from the printed name. Fixing walls and windows, adding bricks, and retouching stains, were all magical. But this was different. She knew she was going to do something she had never done before.

She picked her magic wand and touched the black letters. It should have been the easiest thing to change, but it wasn’t. She closed her eyes again and, without looking, pressed Delete.

He woke up out of breath. It was still dark. It took him some time to calm down and realize it was just a dream. Wasn’t it? The room was pitch black. The lights in their old apartment were not working for weeks. He reached out to his left and felt her warm body. She was still here. He didn’t want to fall back asleep and risk losing her again. He hugged her until the first light came through the perfect, clear window. It was like a painting of a magical little garden with red flowers he hadn’t noticed before.

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