An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

02 October 2008

Lost loves

One afternoon, as I was browsing through the digital archives of the Moll family's photographs, spanning the 1920's and onwards, I came upon these two photographs of a pretty young lady. The photos are inscribed at the back. I have a hunch who "Dearest" is, but that will remain a family secret.

I was much moved by my find. I don't know who she is, really. I have never heard anyone talk about her while I was growing up, and I don't know her real name. I saw her in some other photos of groups, at soirees, wearing tea-length party dresses made of taffeta or lace, the women sitting together in a row, their knees and feet close together and poised at a practiced slant, as if choreographed. I never asked anyone who she was the first time I saw the albums as a young child. But as I looked at the photos in 2004, when I had gotten older, instantly, I knew the importance of this woman's presence in the group photographs. Instantly I knew how she felt, writing at the back of these two photos, perhaps kissing the envelopes before sending them off. Instantly, too, I knew how she felt, being away from her Dearest. And instantly, I knew how she felt when she realized that it was over.

I've had my own share of heartbreaks. I began to see images of myself in various ages in the later photos, and I look quite strange to myself. It was as if I was looking at an entirely different person. Even now, when I try to remember myself as I was a few years ago, I feel detached from that person, that woman tying up her waist-length hair into a bun, packing up the laundry to drop off to the laundromat, driving herself to Bicol while listening to the Electric Light Orchestra on her iPod, and suddenly bursting into tears for no reason. It was as if I were someone standing at a corner, watching myself, myself as "that" woman living through her years. That woman could very well have inscribed photographs of herself to her beloved, and then lost him, lost him to time, to distance, to differing interests, to growing older, to destiny.

I scanned all of these family photographs one summer in 2004 after finding out that Bita's albums, the ones that were made with black pages and required photo corners to attach the photos, were falling apart, and the photos themselves have started to fade. A few have been partly eaten up by silverfish. Several had begun to turn silver at the edges, the silver nitrate used for developing photos decades ago rising up to the surface now, as if from death to life.

The actual photographs are now permanently stored in a large box, meticulously arranged with sheets and sheets of acid-free paper, in a sealed wooden box lined with a UV protectant material. In a while, they will go into a fire-proof safe. After almost one hundred years of being looked at, of providing remembrances, of showing now-deceased people as they were when they were happy and alive, of showing now-widowed people as they were when they were still in their beloved's arms, of showing weddings and funerals and christenings and graduations and birthday parties, they have ended up in my hands because I had the time and the yearning to scan them in hi-res on the summer of 2004.

My fingerprints would be the very last imprint these photographs will carry, and these photographs will nevermore see the light of day. Lost loves have been beheld once more, if only in photographs, and shall be lost once more, sealed from the present, but never from our memories. Lost, but not lost -- simply rising to the surface once every hundred years or so, always alive, always aflame in sepia, the color of secrets and regret.


Anonymous estan said...

how endearing to read such sweet notes which is now becoming rarer and rarer. old mementos always makes me smile :)

6:37 PM  

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