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Just Another Hard-Drive-and-Love-Story Loss Story

Updated: 2 days ago

The first scene of the film I lost begins with a chain link fence behind which all the leaves are brown. Some of the leaves have fallen over the fence so that the sidewalk has a pillowy lining. We are on the opposite side of the street, where my friend Lizi has found two small brown birds, dead. I’m behind the camera. Lizi walks to the fence to grab some sticks and leaves, then comes back, gently rolls the bodies onto leaves, and carries them one by one up to the fence. Her clogs click against the concrete like tap, tap, tap, hello, anyone? Tap, tap, am I the last empathic human in the world? The browns of the birds and their inadequate grave are drained even of gray inside this non-landscape and there’s a bundled-up blond man, Lars, almost out of frame, ignoring this whole process with his hands in his pockets. He is the main character of the film that was lost.


On the day this was filmed Lizi was visiting Chicago, where we had met in art school. It’s rare to keep a friendship communicative from far away, but a well-built one stays fresh forever, anyway. It's different in romantic relationships, which can't just be silent for months or years. Shared goals of a home and family life can stimulate constant talking, like they did for me and my ex-boyfriend, David, for two years. It’s beautiful work to sow the belief in a future together. And then if it doesn't work out, whatever, you just watch all the hard-won crop go to waste. Faith moves mountains, and then you have a relocated mountain, like the entire sand dune in Chile that the artist Francis Alÿs arranged for hundreds of people to shovel a few inches to one side. In a friendship, a moved mountain is an everlasting gift. In a relationship, its silhouette can suddenly resemble a looming, misshapen monster in the night, and reveal itself to be made out of one's own wounded tissue. Maybe we should let geological time do its thing and walk away, I told David once as we sat on a mossy log in the forest where I convinced him to take us. We were already both living in Panama city, not far from this mossy log. I asked him to get into the river with me, but the pressure of our circumstances morphed my playful request into a personal affront. Two more years were to pass before our relationship ended for good. He and I never went through a period of evaluating our compatibility, as in dating; we jumped right into the deep end of a pool that turned out to be a mirage, then gladly lay there, on the pavement, stunned with love, like the bodies of two birds whose own souls have abandoned them to go frolic and fly in another realm. How can fragile avian corpses have anything to do with the pointless labor of moving a mountain? These metaphors are like candy at the supermarket checkout counter, easy to buy and hand out in place of an explanation. I've spoken about this relationship so many times, saying and believing such thoroughly opposing statements, that cookies and cream Hershey's bars and packs of Vanilla Ice Trident gum will have to do for right now.


In the second scene of the lost film, Lars leans against the stove in the small kitchen of my studio apartment in Chicago on his thirtieth birthday, mumbling about his greatest insecurity, his glass eye. It doesn’t dart along with the one that sees, the one made of eye as opposed to glass. An eye can hardly be referred to as flesh, and “tissue” doesn’t cut it either, doesn’t slice it quite right. An eye is something between a boiled egg, a polished gem, a panna cotta, a jellyfish and water itself. The film was 40 minutes long and unfinished the moment I realized I had lost the hard drive. I was kneeling beneath my graduation project—a large pillow made of fabric scraps and wrinkled printouts of stills from the film sewn into the shape of a heart, stuffed tight and hung from the ceiling by a bungee cord—as if prepared for a blow. I called Lars between hiccuping sobs. Fuck, he said, that's heartbreaking.


To be continued, I suppose.


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