ALL AT ONCE there they were, the women. They appeared out of the void, attired in his dresses, pants, skirts, blouses, coats. At times it seemed to him as if they were stepping out of the whiteness, or had simply emerged, finally breaking through the surface to reveal themselves. He just had to tip the tray of developer the least bit, that was all it took. First there was nothing-and then suddenly something. But that moment between nothing and something could not be captured-it was as if it didn't exist at all.
The oversize sheet slid into the tray. Adam turned it over with plastic tongs, nudged it deeper, turned it again, stared at the whiteness, and then at the image of a woman in a long dress draped in a spiral around her ample body, but leaving one shoulder bare, found himself gazing at it as devoutly as if a miracle had happened, as if he had compelled a spirit to assume form.
Adam briefly held the photo up with the tongs. The black surface of the background was softer now, but the dress and the armpit held their contour. He picked up his cigar from the rim of the ashtray, took a puff, and blew the smoke across the wet image before dipping it in the stop bath and from there into the tray of fixer.
The squeak of the garden gate unsettled him. He heard the footfall growing louder, taking the three stairs, heard the soft thud of the shopping bag meeting the front door as it opened.
"Adam, are you home?"
"Yes," he called so loudly that she would have to hear him. "Down here!"
The sound of her heels passed overhead as he blew on the negative, wiped it with a chamois cloth, and then slipped it into the enlarger again. He pulled the image into focus and switched off the light. The kitchen tap opened, then closed, the steps returned-suddenly she was hopping on one foot, pulling off her sandals. The empty bottles in the basket behind the cellar door clinked.
"Hm." He removed one sheet from the package, 18 by 24, and squared it in the enlarger.
Tread by tread Evelyn descended the stairs. Her fingers would be dusty again, from running her hand against the low ceiling to keep from bumping her head.
He picked up his cigar again for a few more quick puffs that left him completely enveloped in smoke.
Setting the timer for fifteen seconds, he pushed the big square button-the light came on, the timer began to buzz.
With a stirring motion Adam waved a flattened aluminum spoon above the woman's head, pulled it away with catlike speed, and as if going for a wade in the water, extended his fingers to shadow the woman's body, but drew them back before the enlarger's light went off again and its buzz fell silent.
"Whoa! Damn, that stinks! Do you have to smoke down here too, Adam?"
Adam picked up the tongs to immerse the paper in the developer. He didn't like to be disturbed when he was working with his photography. He didn't even have a radio down here.
Barefoot, Evelyn was still a good half head taller than Adam. She groped her way over to him now, tapped his shoulder. "I thought you were going to fix us something to eat?"
"In this heat? I spent the whole time mowing the lawn."
"I'm going to have to leave again."
The woman in the long dress appeared on the white paper. It annoyed Adam that she was evidently sucking in her stomach, he thought he could tell from her smile that she was holding her breath. But then maybe he was mistaken. He used tongs to dip the image into the stop bath and from there into the fixer. Now he tugged a new sheet from the package, folded it down the middle, and ripped it in half against the table edge. He stuck one half back in the package.
"What are you eating?" he asked.
"Close your eyes. You're peeking, stop it."
"Have they been washed?"
"Yes, I'm not trying to poison you," Evelyn said as she pushed a grape into his mouth.
"Where'd you get these?"
"Kretschmann's, the old man slipped me an extra sackful. I didn't know what was in it."
The enlarger light went on.
"What do you want me to tell Frau Gabriel?"
"Put her off."
"But I've got to tell her today. If they're going to give me vacation time in August, then I've got to take it."
"She's nuts. We'll take off when we want to take off."
The light went out.
"We wanted to go in August. You said August, and Pepi said August was better for her too. Without kids nobody ever gets vacation time in August. Besides, the visa will expire."
"It's not a visa."
"It doesn't matter what you call it. We applied for August."
"It's good till September tenth."
Adam dragged the paper through the tray, turning it twice.
"Now she's sexy!" Evelyn said, as the woman in a pantsuit emerged, hands braced against her back, breasts thrust forward.
"Any mail?" Adam asked.
"Nope," Evelyn said. "Why don't we take the train?"
"I don't like being stuck in one spot. It's boring without the car. You got any more?"
Evelyn shoved the rest of the grapes into his mouth, then wiped her wet hands on her jeans. "And so what am I going to tell Frau Gabriel?"
"One week at least, she's got to give us a week."
"By then August is as good as over."
"You can turn on the light," he said, once he'd laid the proof in the fixer. He stepped across to the rectangular sink, where several more photos were swimming, fished one out, and hung it on the line with some others.
"And in the real world?"
"Renate Horn from Markkleeberg. Got any more grapes for me?"
"You'll have to go upstairs for them. And this one here?"
"You know her. Desdemona."
"Sure you do. Andrea Albrecht, from the Polyclinic, the gynecologist."
"With the Algerian boyfriend?"
"There's no Algerian boyfriend. You've met, shook hands once. I made this outfit for her"-he pointed at a photo on the line-"back in June."
"Wait a sec-" Evelyn stepped up close to the shot. "Is she wearing my shoes? Those are my shoes!"
"Those are mine, there, on the toe, that scratch. Are you crazy?"
"They never know anything about shoes, they show up here wearing clunkers that ruin everything. It's just for thirty seconds-"
"But I don't want your women wearing my shoes. I don't want you taking shots of them out in the garden, and certainly not in the living room either."
"It was hot upstairs."
"I won't have it!" Evelyn was now giving other shots a closer look. "So are we leaving tomorrow?'
"As soon as our new chariot arrives, we're on our way."
"I've been hearing that for three weeks."
"I've called. What am I supposed to do?"
"We're not ever going to go on this trip, I'll bet you."
"You'll lose." Adam pulled photo after photo from the water and hung them up. "I guarantee you'll lose."
"We'll never get another visa. They wouldn't give us one now. They've moved the age limit up to fifty, Frau Gabriel says."
"Frau Gabriel, Frau Gabriel. She's always got lots and lots to say."
"This one's beautiful. Is it red?"
"Why don't you ever do color shots?"
"She had someone bring the silk back with them, and this material here"-Adam held up a photo showing a young woman in a short skirt and loose blouse-"expensive shit, even in the West. You can't feel it against your skin, it's that fine spun."
Adam folded up a wet photo and threw it in the wastebasket.
"Why'd you do that?"
"Wasn't any good."
Evelyn reached into the wastebasket.
"The background is all black dots," Adam said.
"Is this Lilli?"
Evelyn tossed the photo back in the basket and returned to the entryway, where the shelves of preserves were.
"It's like they multiply. You want pears or apples?"
"Is there any stewed quince left? And close the door."
Adam turned off the light and waited till the door clicked shut.
"Some from eighty-five, if this is a five," Evelyn called from the other side of the door.
"Doesn't matter." Adam chose a new negative, focused, pulled the half page from the package, laid it under the enlarger, and pushed the timer button. He hummed along with it.
"You want a bowl now too?"
"Are you going to the museum today?"
"Have the tours started up already?"
"Yes, and I'm going to have to miss it again."
"I can't go either, I've got a fitting," Adam called out.
For a moment everything was quiet. He let the page slide into the liquid, pressed it down. There was the snap of the light switch in the entryway.
He heard the clink of the empty bottles again.
"Evi!" he shouted and was on the verge of following her, but then in the next moment he bent down deeper over the tray, as if trying to make sure that the woman emerging there with her laugh and outspread arms was really looking at him.
Excerpted from Adam and Evelyn by Ingo Schulze. Copyright © 2011 by Ingo Schulze. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.