Going through a massive project of reorganizing all our photos, moving them from photo albums to boxes with little index cards. Nobody goes through these anymore, nobody is that interested in what I was doing 20 years ago that it needs to be in a bulky album taking up massive space. Yet I can't quite throw them out, and there's something about organizing things that makes it okay to keep them. And so here I am, writing in careful ink "Kokura, spring 1990, salarymen playing baseball outside the castle" even while I realize that if I haven't forgotten it yet I probably won't forget it ever; who are these notes for? And yet and yet.
Looking at these I realize I've always been the same, I'm like a tree, you can just read my rings and tell which years were sad and which were happy but in every picture I'm pretty much the same tree, hair longer or shorter, face wider or thinner, in a black tank top and jeans that don't look good at all, or in someone else's t-shirt and baggy pants rolled or cut to my knees, barefoot or boots. My insistence on lace-up shoes despite 20 years in cultures that make me take them off is a little odd, as is the fact that I only started wearing interesting socks about five years ago. My persistent dressing like an overweight stagehand even when I was slammin', and black has never looked good on me, though I feel good in it. The refusal to wear makeup even though everyone told me I would be pretty, because I knew I would not be pretty and I might as well spare myself the effort and the disappointment. I wanted to be menopausal when I was 18, I wanted to be excused from caring fairly early on and it shows, it shows, making faces to break the camera, see I'm not ugly it's just my face.
And the pictures of other people, whoa. How to label this, to say "here's a person I thought I'd know forever, and now he's dead, or alive but we don't even talk; here's a woman I loved like a sister and now I can barely remember her last name." What it means to look and see how clear it is that I haven't changed, and so why have so many people disappeared, living only in these pictures? Did they change? I suppose people do. Or they get bored with my being the same, the way you can get tired of even your favorite picture if you have to look at it every day.
It is of interest now to watch people my age, women who were especially pretty in particular, but also the men, the sweetly balding men, watching with horror as their youth drains away but for me it is the same relief as a uniform: finally I don't have to decide. Or rather I seem to have decided finally already 30 years ago and now here I am. I could buy alcohol without getting carded from about age 15, which is possibly why alcohol was not particularly alluring for me. And now here I am, not merely the mother in the school play because I look older than everybody else, but the mother in real life and I may still look older than everybody else or maybe I finally look my age, I don't know. I recognize myself in these pictures but not because I haven't aged. The tree gets taller, and it's stronger or it's bowed but it's the same tree. Can you see what I mean? Do you want to see the pictures?