17 July 2003
It's maybe a family thing. That I can't tell you, nor why I might have come into this estate, if estate it is, at the age of twenty-five. Perhaps it was some traumatic event - although, when I think about how exactly life has unfolded, I can't help but feel that twenty-five was about as "how can you stand it?" and about as "do you ever stop whining?" as any other year there or thereabouts, or in fact back as far as college; plenty of angst and Leonard Cohen, not much actual physical injury, and what there was of that tiresomely self-inflicted.
Other options....bitten by a radioactive darkroom? Not so much. Shuttered four-fifths of the brain hurled open like the shutter cap of Heaven by a careful process of meditation, study and semen retention? Not hardly. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered at the very least the semen retention. As of early May, when you left, thus ruining both an apparently perfectly good relationship and a potentially very good line, the semen was, if not exactly being put to good use, yet unrestrained. So that wasn't it. Nor initiation into dark rites, unless I was very drunk indeed.
And I certainly haven't been selected for a mysterious team of specialists working to protect a world that doesn't understand us. Oh no. I suppose that if you tried really hard you could maybe think up some tiny strategic or espionage application for it, but it would no doubt be more than balanced out by my absolute lack of ability in every other direction. For a while, after that first hushed confession to somebody I really, really wanted to sleep with, I was expecting some mysterious agency to turn up either to recruit or dissect me, but if it ever has got back to the high masons, it seems they can't be bothered to do anything about it.
Maybe it's like being double-jointed or able to remember the Peking phone book; rare enough to make seeing it surprising, but not enough to make it genuinely intriguing when you deal with large enough blocks of people.
But anyway, you hardly care what the origin was; it's the effects that cause little ripples to go through parties, that makes me seem somehow more interesting and dangerous and generally fun to be around.
I think that's because it gives people the feeling that they are in a TV miniseries. Seriously. It's a really cheap-looking effect, but it's just far enough out of the ordinary to suggest that something is going on here that renders the generally rather drab civil servant flats of my friends startling and transgressive. Ironically, it makes the world seem a little less grey. I'm popular at parties now; I think you might have appreciated that.
Here's how it works. Somebody presses me to show them. I am reluctant, droop my head, claim to be tired/unwilling/sick of being a showpony. Eventually, I am prevailed upon. Somebody produces a photograph, usually from an album in the other room and as such probably of the host by hostess, or the hostess by host, or of both by some third party. I reach out to it, furrowing my brow and thinking just so, and the very tips of my fingers disappear into it.
Everybody gasps. The image on the photograph bubbles and glows, then fades, until nothing is left but a dull, dirty white space. This works only on actual photos - don't ask me why. The advent of the digital camera might make the whole parlour trick obsolete.
So, everybody gasps again, and shivers and I answer the same questions over and over. No, I don't know how it happens. Yes, I can still feel the tips of my fingers, even though they are manifestly not protruding from the reverse of the photographic paper. They feel like they are in cool water.
And yes, when I do it I get a rush. Specifically, I get a rush of emotion - the emotions, it seems, although there has never really been any way to corroborate this, when the photograph was taken. Of course, if you say something like "I feel love, warmth and tenderness", then people are going to make big eyes and nod seriously. Usually it's drunkenness. Sometime love and affection, quite a lot of the time boredom. For some reason, people tend to fall out of love on holiday - I feel it from smiles in front of the amphitheatre to thumbs-up in front of a sign with an amusing misrepresentation of written English.
It's a trick, although I don't know how I do it, and I've never managed to teach it. Maybe it gives me a little bit of power, but it's just emotions, not PIN numbers or true confessions.
Besides, you don't get profound emotion from the kind of photographs people don't mind being destroyed for a little sip of the spooky bottle over liqueurs.
But the pictures I took, the pictures of us, are very different. It took me five days to assemble them all in date order, and it's been a guilty pleasure; maybe one a night, maybe two. Happy, sad, drunk, jocose, horny, horny, horny...and in love. That's a weird one. I'm trying not to think how synthetic, how tinfoil that feels; not a bit like some of the mellow flowerings dripping off the odd cute couple's duplicate wedding snap, or even the little sniffs in group photos featuring forgotten lovers.
My sense of touch isn't sure it was love at all. And we're into the mudslide now. The long downward trajectory to pancake on the ground of early May. The rain saving itself up for that one long argument. Sometimes I want to pull the photos I took of the receding bumper of your Beetle out of sequence, but that would be cheating.
Another three months, I reckon, and I'm out. I'd like to leave a few, for old time's sake, but you know how it is. It's like a loose tooth.
So, I was wondering. I've got a bit of a sideline going, now - it's quite successful, but mostly done with slow exposures and black and white film rather than any real flair right now. It'll come, I hope, but it doesn't hurt to have a gimmick. And I was wondering - would you like to come and pose? No charge. And maybe we could have a drink afterwards.
Just think about it, OK?