I must’ve been an archaeologist in a previous life. If not, then certainly I studied history in some form. Like an archaeologist I find myself in constant reflection and examination of the past. Dwelling on interactions, conversations, and moments which flicker by like strips of magnetic film on an old Steenbeck. I can control the speed, but I can’t filter the image. This is the past; I cannot change it.
The relics I unearth haunt and humor me like the ashes of a loved one yet un-scattered; out of sight but never out of mind. Imagine walking through a great antiques warehouse. Soft light illuminates dust floating on invisible currents, moving excitedly in some areas and coming to rest in other deep places less frequented. It is a labyrinthine place filled with file cabinets and bookshelves, boxes and chests. They are each unique in association, referring to specific decades, dates; becoming smaller the more specific you become, like a Matryoshka doll which at its center holds one perfect second. The floor crumbles in some areas, unsafe. Here it is wooden, sighing as you explore. In others there is carpet, linoleum, grass, concrete. But what happens when you close your eyes? There is only the sound of your pulse, your lungs. The automatic responses of an inhabited body. You are alone, but you are not lonely.
In the center of this warehouse is a safe, which you dare not open. Atop it, a projector.
What triggers this unearthing, this journey, varies: the smell of ChapStick; the taste of ninety-nine cent ramen; a home movie seen through intoxicated eyes. Or maybe it’s far more tangible than that: a shared kiss, reckless and passionate, forbidden; the nighttime wind howling and pulling you toward the scenic view hundreds of feet below; a newly made bed upon which sit dozens of photos in neat rows, threatening to pull you into their welcoming escape. And then there’s the deja vu, which strikes with the unpredictable force of an aneurism, freezing you where you stand as if all of this has happened before and is happening again: the receding daylight piercing through an airport hundreds of miles away; the beehive chaos of a foreign train station.
In the aftermath of loss, we retreat to those things which can reliably be counted on for happiness, for support. Old friends; like well worn books we’ve neglected and sit gathering dust, yet greet us as if no time has passed at all. Our favorite chapters are marked, easily identified, recollected upon together. A forgotten hobby, reignited, and a new one made.
But another place exists, far easier to envelop in. The inability to move past pain, past regret, breeding something dark, cancerous, a shroud of assumption masked in concern. Jealousy. Desire. The line between rationalized judgement and overt cynicism intersect and form a knot, then a noose. The cord is copper and titanium, beautiful and indestructible, hoisting you up and imploring you to support yourself while at once whispering to acquiesce. It’s someone you want to save who denies saving. You see the potential within them as something just out of reach, existing in the peripheral of your vision. Fluid and fickle, difficult to define and even harder to deny. But they are not yours to save.
The projector, once running, is difficult to stop. One reel ends, and another begins, a seamless transition with no period, no end point. It is a world of commas and semi-colons; one great run on sentence that is beautiful and malnourishing. We cannot survive alone on what The Warehouse has to offer. There is no future here. And what lies in the safe is to each their own mystery. Inscribed in stone at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi is the maxim, “Know Thyself,” and this same thing is emblazoned on the safe. Know Thyself. Is that not ultimately the same ideal of archaeology? You switch the projector off, feeling it’s warmth once last time like that of a lover. There are still empty places within The Warehouse, and you must leave to fill them in.