Everyone else has photos either stuffed away in a box on top of the wardrobe or crammed into battered shoe boxes under the bed, but I have none. That’s not entirely true; I do have one solitary wooden framed black and white wedding photo which is now buried in the bottom of a drawer, but that is all the photographic evidence that remains of my life.
All those yellowing albums I used to have, full of smiling faces from the past 45 years, have now been thrown away. Without ceremony, without ritual, without even a final review of the pages inside the garishly decorated album covers, all my photos were heaved into a garden-sized green garbage bag and tossed into the back of the rubbish man’s pick up truck.
Does this mean I don’t want to remember my past? That I want my memories to fade and eventually disappear? What I long for is amnesia – not to forget the smiling posed slivers of happiness captured in the abandoned photos, but to be free from the picture in my head that has been imprinted on the backs of my eyeballs and etched into the neurons of my brain.
The picture in my head is a full colour photo. Not your normal 6″ x 4″ snapshot, but a 10″ x 8″ – the size reserved for headshots and family portraits. In the centre of the photo is the oversized bright blue upholstered armchair. It belonged to the lounge suite that I always hated. It always seemed too big, too stuffed and too blue. The couch and the two armchairs had never fitted into the lounge so the extra chair had ended up in the room that had once been my study.
In that photo I carry in my head I can still see him sitting completely still and lifeless in that blue armchair, sitting in my room. Next to the blue chair is the red gas bottle used for an entirely different purpose than filling balloons for a child’s party. And carelessly scattered on the floor in front of him are those old forgotten photo albums with ugly pink floral covers. He had pulled down the box from on top of the wardrobe and emptied its contents on the floor.
So it wasn’t the albums and the photos that offended me so much I wanted to destroy them, but rather the place they occupied in that scene. They demanded that I give meaning and significance to the fact that they were now on the floor and not safely tucked away in their box. In the days that followed, when I was clearing up the mess and the blue armchair was empty again, those wedding photos jeered at me whispering “you were the last thing he looked at … so it must be your fault”.
I have eradicated the physical evidence of that day, but in my head, bright exaggerated images of blue fabric, red metal, and pink floral still remain.