I’ll be honest. I hate following traditional directions. I am a landmark kinda girl. Don’t tell me go North two hundred feet and turn East following Route Fifty-Sixty and then Route Fifty-Sixty turns into ShutYourHole Boulevard and then blahblahblahdeeblahblah.
Tell me turn right at the tree with the rope tied around it, slow down at what used to be the supercool theatre back in the day but is now storefront with a painted baby buggy on the window, do a U-turn at the point where you can see they had to paint over the white lane lines, look for the slightly taller than normal fire hydrant and then….
Yeah. That’s how I like it.
I remember the little things. My brain likes the things I am not supposed to remember.
I often forget a name but I almost never forget a face.
I have been watching TV and will pause the screen when I see an actor, just some schmo in the background who has worked in other shows as a schmo in other backgrounds who I cannot place immediately. And I wait. And I wait. Until it comes to me. And 99% of the time it does. I might not remember his name (although I would guess it’s Joe), but I will be able to tell you the other eighty backgrounds he’s worked in.
When I see someone at the store, or gas station, or driving down the street who I just know I know but cannot place – I obsess on that person until I get it. And 99% of the time I do.
It could be the guy who was in line behind me at the Jewel two weeks ago and sneezed so I looked at him and blessed him. Or the woman who parked next to me months ago at the gym who opened her door and got out while talking loudly on her cell phone, so I noticed her.
I am a little weird so if I see the sneezing guy again much later, let’s say at the dry cleaner’s, I would say “Hey, Sneezing Guy! I was in line in front of you at the Jewel! I blessed you! Remember me?” Because to me that is the sort of thing I remember so why wouldn’t he.
And he’s all like “Uh. No. No I do NOT remember you, Freak.”. And then he pepper sprays me.
It is the stuff I remember.
I was looking through some old photo albums the other day. Pictures I have seen many hundreds of times. Pictures dating back 5, 10, 20+ years. And as I’ve done hundreds of times before, I look at the backgrounds of them. Pictures from 35 years ago…the main subject matter is a given; me and my sister in front of our childhood home.
I long ago memorized what we were wearing, the tilts of our heads, the shadows we cast. But I have also memorized the backgrounds. The things that aren’t supposed to be important to the shot, the stuff that is simply supposed to serve as the irrelevant backdrop.
I see the small smear of white crayon on one yellow brick to the right of the front door. I remember it. My sister had drawn on that brick one day and she got in trouble for it. In the picture you would probably mistake it for a glare of light. But it’s crayon, and it stayed there until the day my parents moved out of that house forever.
Then there are the crowd shots. Me and family or friends in front of national monuments, buildings, scenery…in crowded places, with people who over the years have evolved into the main focus when their job was to hang there as faded, white-noise enhancements to – us.
I notice the people, the mundane, nameless faces in the background merely caught by my camera in a split-second of borrowed time. But there they are, and I know their faces and expressions so well that if I ran into them on the street tomorrow I would stop, tilt my head back, close my eyes and wait for it to come to me.
My eyes would flash open fiercely with awe and excitement as if I had just invented the toaster, and I skip happily up to angry-looking-woman-wearing-a-yellow-shirt-and-pale-blue-baseball-cap-looking-behind-off-to-her-left-while-standing-to-my-right-at-the-Lincoln-Memorial-in-D.C. and say with all the familiarity of lifelong friends…….
“HEY!!! Angry-looking-woman-wearing-a-yellow-shirt-and-pale-blue-baseball-cap-looking-behind-off-to-her-left-while-standing-to-my-right-at-the-Lincoln-Memorial-in-D.C….how the hell ARE you?! Man it’s been, what, 19 years?? Oh, mannnn, it is good to SEE you again!”
And then that bitch would pepper spray me too. Or maybe taze me, I don’t know. She definitely looked pissed.
It’s funny. That woman is perpetually, forever, frozen in time to me as pissed off. I have made up reasons for that in my head over the years: her kids were lagging behind. Her husband was bitching about being hungry. She had just discovered her wallet was stolen. She realized that she was in D.C. when her flight was supposed to have landed in Seattle but now she was trying to make the best of it.
I will never know that reason, but I would know her.
Background people in photos have always fascinated me. They are not photo bombs because they aren’t even accidentally the focus, and yet I focus on them anyway.
They do not know they are a part of my life as I view it through the prism of frozen memories. Thousands of those people over my lifetime, trapped in my subconscious as they were caught on film. Burned into my memory.
Then I think, how many pictures am I in across the world, just hanging out in the background? Sneezing. Shoving a hot dog in my mouth. Looking bored. Yelling at someone. Laughing.
Is there a picture on a mantle in England of the happy couple in front of the Coliseum in Rome, and not so far back and a little to the right is me looking frustratingly through my fanny pack for my passport?
In photos that are incredibly important and meaningful to people all over the world, is me. Doing something. Or nothing. Innocuously. Or maybe even conspicuously. But I am there, unknowingly emblazoned in their brain as a forever part of that one frozen moment.
And you are too.
I am telling you right now, I want you to know that if you ever come running at me like a linebacker in the mall and say “Oh my GOD! Girl-scratching-her-ass-with her left-hand-while wearing-sunglasses-and-jean-shorts-and-striped-tank-top-with-her-right-hand-on-her-right-hip-in-front-of-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge….holy SHIT…how the hell ARE you!?!”….
I will not taze you, Bro.
I will not taze you.