Betamax

Your letter in the mail is the overdone romantic comedy played repeatedly on the Betamax player of my brain. I keep rewinding and repeating the moments, until the wow and flutter distort the memory of when I first pulled apart the glued security seal. In manufactured magnetic static, what you wrote would be the opposite of what I got. But the pristine digital copy, re-released in memoir, highlighted in blinking visions of where I am laying on the floor in my basement, reminds me that you and I will not see each other again. The tape runs out. Get up. Rewind. Be kind. Breathe.

The movie keeps going. Sounds of a film crew in the empty house, a phantom documentarian following my bipolar moods and movements. I am watching from the closeup, from the wide shot, and from the director’s commentary, as I’m making my way off the concrete floor and up the stairs. You wanted to become a filmmaker in college, and in your letter you said you’d made some serious progress. Where had you not made progress?

I have no appetite at all, and morning coffee is on an empty stomach in the kitchen of my mother’s house. I still haven’t finished unpacking my things from college. The lingering acid in my throat mixed with store brand half and half. Cardboard dust from the moving of a great many boxes, filled with pictures and video cassettes, fills up the lines in my fingers.

You and I loved each other for nearly four years, for our entire time in college. I was the restless one near the end, the  one who got depressed. I know this. I can see it as the B-roll footage stopped being recorded, and photographs became a rare thing for us to take. I should have captured every moment, but I grew stale and assumed you’d always be there. The regret isn’t recorded anywhere. Its a burned out warehouse filled with celluloid film stock, taking on combustion like the life I once took on from you. In the absence of sympathy from my friends, and the loneliness of my life at twenty three, the exit wound of my actions is the far side of a cranial blood blister.

I gave it time instead, and sought to improve the script. I ran off and traveled, made new friends, loved new people, and did my best to move on. But I had to come home eventually. In the rough cut, I came back to your letter, and to your triumph. I’m watching from the director’s chair. I yell, “Look surprised even though you knew it was coming! Its in the script after all!” Everyone, from the snakes of friends to well meaning mentors. Even me. Even I knew from the decisive moment that you would get your things together long before I would.

But the camera’s still rolling, even though the camera man is off living his life somewhere. Some days I wish I could bow out, cut the lights and burn the breakers. The memory is crystal now, digital in clarity. Archival footage going back to the day we met remains undamaged. I’m no film maker. I’m an archivist.

“How’s that working out for you?”

I should eat something.

“You should start a new tape.”

I should do a lot of things.

Over my head. Off the back porch, and into the disused flower beds of the back garden, I’ll throw the Betamax player with our tape stuck on rewind. Still filming. No one but me watching. Be kind, don’t rewind. Plastic gears and belt drives, cassette mechanism shot out across the grass. My head is in one piece.

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