a missing picture.

17/02/2011 § Leave a comment

The fear was confirmed: it was a black&white-film fail.

“No, no. The pictures did not take,” the man behind the glass counter said.

Then, you try to go through what pictures were lost (the ones that would never be there). There was a picture of a window, yes, yes. A window of a chair-place and the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood where there was a building with scaffolding and workers re-whittling decals. Yes, yes, that worker that pivoted in his harness to pose as a star for the camera. You will miss that picture.

This year has been a series of flash-moments and I wonder whether one needs proof (their negatives) that those events happened.

Growing up, I rarely had a camera on hand. Two of my closest friends always took pictures of the events we went to and our social gatherings. I remember going to their parents’ houses and, like a flash, running up the staircases to their rooms, sitting on their beds, looking at the most recent collage they made for their walls or binders. Reminders.

When these two ladies would come to visit me at my house, I would have only figurines and trinkets. When asked where all my pictures were, I would answer that I didn’t have any. I pointed to my head and said that I would remember them, instead. Any tactile reminders were mostly tickets stubs and cards and notes that people wrote.

This past summer, while driving with one of these two friends, I tried re-develop some stories for her. She told me, she “honestly did not remember that.” I wasn’t offended or shocked, but was curious as to how or why I had.

What a hazy whirlwind of a year (for everyone). I found people repeating themselves a lot, myself included. I thought we were all just going crazy and then I realized that we were all just getting to know one another. Again and anew.

With swift change, we crave swift recovery.

Stress and the perception of stress does funny things. In an attempt to protect the body from potential pain (the negative kind), the brain will tell the body to avoid all harmful objects — areas, cities, people — and to seek pleasure (all things that are beautiful.)

Re-reading some Joan Didion one morning, I was alarmed at her honesty of how 1968 treated her. She was blue, so blue. Being from Sacramento and living in New York City, she found herself overly sensitive to the social underpinnings, perceiving the negative of everything, unable to develop the positive of anything. She thought she was losing it and then she did.

When asked if I liked the West coast, my response was, “no”. I tried to be sensitive about it. I thought that the high-rise condos erected over community centres and shelters were the definition of a “social-awareness” oxymoron (a negative disguised as a positive). I wondered how and who were living in these temporary buildings of glass and steel, temporary markers of our ability to tear-down and re-build. I could not see anything light about it. (To be honest, I still don’t.)

I always thought of New York City and Toronto as real places. When you go downtown, people are buying! and selling! and they wear where their hearts lay on their tailor-made sleeves. I didn’t condone it, but neither did I feel it my place to say how one should live. I live my life the way I choose — two pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, one hoodie (doubling as a towel when need be), a couple of t-shirts, flip-flops, a pair of Vans, laptop, passport. Ready to be swift.

Returning from the little-land of silver (Argentina), after six-months of over-thinking and not really talking about it, I couldn’t laugh about downtown Toronto anymore. I saw snapshots of sadness in peoples’ faces and could no longer see the life in the decay. I saw consumption. I perceived people who knew they were doing things they didn’t want to do because they felt they had to or had a mortgage or had car payments. I trembled with the buzz of stress and tried to sit on a curb to let it ride through. I watched the pigeons, trying to find beauty in something of nothing. Tears forming because of stumpy-feet and greasy feathers from eating street-meat scraps. I couldn’t laugh, so I cried.

I thought about this, but what is most important is that I remember it (not only as a “Canadian,” but as a person who is just like everyone else):

When there is a language barrier and you are not-so insta-charismatic, you stop paying attention to people and try to find something interesting to interact with or work really hard at. Not understanding a word people are saying is socially isolating. It will shut you off.

I remember being frozen with stress in foreign countries. I was unable to express myself or have real conversations. I knew some words– like colours and the weather (the stuff they teach you in class) — but I didn’t know how to talk about ideas or social observations. Lost in the street-talk. It was absolutely loopy how mind-numb one can become.

So it was, sitting on a heater-grate at Union Station, I craved to see beauty, again.

For a little while, I tried finding it in things and it wasn’t until I started being around friends and working at a coffee-shop that I actually re-learned how to properly socialize.

Isolation truly is a cage.

Then, you open the door a little bit. You start talking about your ideas. You put them out there. You find more and more people are thinking the same thing. Yes, yes, it is strange to get mailed Airmiles-coupons specific to the things we purchase, and when we tell someone, that other person also sees it as bizarre (not crazy and not coincidental).

If Didion were a little more charismatic, well, we wouldn’t have Didion. And yes, she is dark.

I remember an acquaintance who studied psychology tell me that his office would have the scariest, most obscure art hanging on the walls. We discussed how people who are surrounded by happiness begin to question their own darkness. They cannot join in the laughter of those things they feel they cannot understand. And yes, they are too shy to ask. And yes, they recede in order to protect themselves.  I remember my acquaintance saying, “in order to get people to talk, they need to know they are not alone.”

Living in an individualistic society can make us think we are all on our own.

That car ride with my friend was like a dark room. Neither of us could handle ourselves properly, trying to develop a comfort in between our reals conversations with snippets like, “wow, look at the colour of the sky,” or “wow, look at the beautiful trees,” or “all we have is right now!” or “we can change this box we live in.” Yes, we can. And yes, we talked about the insidious nature behind the bureaucracy of every institution. And, yes, just-like-that — flash! — she said it felt so good to talk to someone about it. So we began flipping through albums of photographs she had collected for this trip. Pictures of the past, flashes of memories of what felt like another life-time. Some pictures were missing, she told me.

I broke down that weekend. Highs and lows. I wondered if I would remember anything without pictures, if I would remember someone’s preferences, if I would remember memories, if I wanted to remember memories, if I knew anyone at all anymore, if I could get to know anyone at all anymore, if I would remember my friend’s birthday, if I would remember another friend’s wedding date, if I could only remember. I was on a neo-information and re-information over-load, the circuitry in my brain was carving new pathways and re-paving old ones, I needed a break, I needed to breathe, standing at the mouth of the cave, on the edge, wanting to go back in, knowing I had to leap, unsure if I could handle it, let alone move a leg, I felt a nudge and I fell.

I realized that I can’t try to remember every past moment. It is the literal two-steps forward and one-step back. That’s what pictures and words are there for.

So, in a couple of days, I hope to be swimming. I might have my camera and I might not. I’m not going to get too stressed out about it. New experiences develop all the time.

So it goes.


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