A Picture Gets 1000 Words In, Edgewise

My friend, Jacob “click on this to go and listen to his new 10-minute album” Earl, just posted a photo that facebook reminded him he took of me ten years ago today.

First off, I don’t love how i look like I’ve been caught calling the cops on some kids who didn’t do anything. I’ll tell you right now that is not what i was doing, even though i don’t remember anything about that day. We can rule that out a priori.

Apart from my grumpy cat expression, what was going on in that person’s life? I got pulled in right away and started comparing it to me now.

It slowly dawned on me as i pored over it looking for clues about what a difference a decade can make that this location is about three blocks from where i live now. It’s a solid 25 minute walk from where i lived at the time. Things change but it’s just a twist on the way they were.
I’m taken aback by what’s different and what’s the same. For example,

  • still wear the loosest jeans from Old Navy (fortunately without the fashion holes, unfortunately i don’t like the cut they have now very much)
  • still wear that same brown heavy cotton shirt
  • still wear a chunky Fossil watch; in fact, it’s the warranty replacement for the one in the picture.
  • getting better haircuts now, still from a friend in their living room but now it’s a friend who’s apprenticed as a barber specializing in gender non-conforming clientele, not just a friend who is being generous with their time but can’t quite wrangle my $20 beard clippers.
  • my body looks exactly the same as far as i can tell, except i have a tattoo now on that gleaming, naked expanse of forearm in the foreground.
  • still friends with Jacob.
  • still wear nondescript black sneakers, but now i choose them based on on whether my back and feet will hurt so bad I can’t get out of bed without screaming – because this is before i began my run of what’s nearly 9 years now of service jobs. this is right about the end of my two-years long failed experiment to live off music, after leaving the weird hodge-podge of odd jobs that filled my days in K’jipuktuk in the eight months or so between the dissolution of my prior life and moving away from the place i was born for the first time at 27.
  • i miss my eyebrow ring and i don’t care who knows it
  • i miss having a phone that absorbed my attention like 1% as much as the fascinating machine i carry everywhere now does.
  • i also miss that shirt, designed by my friend James “opened a huge career retrospective at a major Canadian gallery last night” Kirkpatrick which was merch for the Brendan “Alias” Whitney album he designed, but
  • that little twinge of nostalgia gives way to genuine sadness as i pull back and focus on the bigger picture, in which Brendan’s friends are still actively grieving his sudden, quiet passing just seven months ago. He was our age. It came out of nowhere.

that might be the most sobering thing about revisiting a candid, spontaneous photo across a decade: a pretty object that only had fun artistic associations back then becomes saturated in loss.

the context of loss shifting from a specific watch to real epochal life stuff reminds me that that’s a 29 year old kid who is still reeling from some of the worst things they’ve ever had to deal with, and who still has a good chunk of worst things to go in the next five years.

i bet that phone call was from someone who doesn’t acknowledge me in public anymore, or someone who slowly cut me out of their life without letting me know. Or it could be from the call centre I’d just started working at that month, if I’m not too mixed up.

Damn. A picture says a thousand curse words if you let it.

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