Experiment IV / Response
It starts with a kind of disorientation, a kind of buzzing along my spine. It starts with a photo. A moment I froze from a time I can’t remember. Some moment when I must have thought: “this needs to be remembered.” Crossing a lake in a boat. To climb a mountain because she said to me, “why don’t we?” And that was all we needed really, then, as a kind of challenge to go and see. To try. And somehow, she found a boat, and a man to take us there. So, I put the photo up to remember her, too. Her from a long time ago. Before today, that photo lived in a box, in a dark, forgotten attic. In a place I can’t get back to. To see it here means something is being recovered or reclaimed. She said, “you have to find a way to go from there to here. To this place that isn’t yours yet.” You can see it in all that light, an unknown. I don’t know what that light will do, or where it will go. I know I need a kind of touch stone. A kind of anchor to keep me here, a way to say that I am coming into it. It might root me, like the boat, to something I’m asked to remember. Establish a line stretching out, like fishing wire, like a drag off the back of wherever we are going to next.
See, these are all the little things I carry with me, still. That’s what I would say to her.
After a year at home, I am back on campus. But it is a brand-new campus. A new oﬃce that still is so echo-y. Not unpacked. Not established. There are trees here. A small wood to walk through.
Can you see it outside the window? It takes getting outside of Tokyo sometimes to see so much green. There are people in the hall I don’t know. Bare walls. When I took my paperwork to immigration and saw my contract actually said, “until retirement”, it felt real for the first time. A kind of permanence for the first time. Maybe that would mean we could buy a bookcase, a bed, we could settle down. After 8 years of living like it wasn’t going to last, like we didn’t know what was coming next. Maybe hanging onto, putting up, some photos is a way to say I belong here, to fool myself into something I still don’t feel is really real. But don’t let it fool you, anyway. These are the things we left behind for so long in our house in Pittsburgh. That house lost to the mud. Things that I rescued, dug out, sent as 41 boxes on an ocean tanker, to us. Like it was so easy to get our past back. That it would come in those pieces, of other places, stretching like string, connecting us back. It’s still just a kind of pretending that things are certain and known. That we can make the spaces us, or ours, by way of some adornment.
I put my hands on the trees as I walk back to the station. I say, “thank you.”
He told me he went to Bic Camera and thought for a bit about buying a ring light. I think he was amused. “Too many Zoom calls late at night, across time zones, with poor lighting,” he said. I told him, “When I’m teaching online, I stare at myself.” I hate to see myself really, but if I don’t, how can I know I am there? How can I be sure I exist in that space or that others can hear me? To see me speaking, is the reassurance that we are coming together across spaces, that I am oriented, that I haven’t gone missing in the lines somewhere.
Getting lost is always so mundane.