(I’ve been writing this in my head for four years. Four years and seven months, to be precise.)
So one last touch and then you’ll go
And we’ll pretend that it meant something so much more
But it was vile, and it was cheap
And you are beautiful but you don’t mean a thing to me
—Death Cab for Cutie, Tiny Vessels
I got this picture in New Jersey. It’s the most peculiar size for a photograph: 3 7/16 by 4 13/16 inches.
For some reason, I see it properly like this — landscape orientation, with the white stripe on the left — when it could just as well be rotated any other way. This is the bias I place on it. The way I view it.
It almost looks like a room with a wall in frame on the left, and the camera has metered for a flash off the wall, underexposing the rest of the picture. There are two smears in the blackness. Maybe an out-of-focus object, maybe a fingerprint on the lens.
I didn’t take the picture. Someone else did, thought it was bad, and was about to throw it out before I asked for it. Someone who took me for granted. Someone who’s world I lived in but for a week, in the midst of the intense summer humidity and coitus interruptus.
I’ve kept it in one of my notebooks since. The edges have turned yellow, and the corners blunt from handling.
Every time I look at it, I like to think that I see something in that grain and that noise. That something’s there; I just don’t see it because there isn’t enough light to expose it, but it exists nonetheless. Some photographic kōan, where I become that which I seek.
But I know there isn’t, the way I know it was nothing more than passing moment, a week forgotten, a life unchanged.
And I’ve been happily fooling myself ever since.