Yearly Archives: 2014
The god of the office goes to the advent market between the two big museums, across the street from more museums (on the one side) and a palace on the other, because it has a Christmas post office and his wife wants to mail Christmas cards with pretty holiday-themed stamps rather than the ugly printed stickers all the post offices have now. He is in a hurry because he only has an hour for lunch and it takes an estimated 30 minutes to get there from his office, unless there is heavy traffic, like today, in which case it takes 45 minutes to get there, meaning he will be at least half an hour late getting back to the office today. The god of the office reminds himself that everyone else at the office habitually comes back to work between 15 and 60 minutes late after lunch, everyone but him, and he decides to relax.
In this relaxed state, the god of the office searches the advent market for the Christmas post office but following a meticulous search determines there is none. There is a photo booth where it was last year. So he walks back to the parking garage to fetch his car and return to the office.
On his way there he notices a couple standing at one of the high, round tables people stand at at the advent market to drink their mulled wine and hot punch. The couple are looking at him with recognition.
What, thinks the god of the office, who considers himself invisible and therefore is uncomfortable being noticed.
There are four possibilities, he reckons. These are, in order of diminishing likelihood,
- They are wondering what a hobo is doing with so many Christmas cards;
- They are wondering if they have seen him somewhere before and if so, Where.
- They are wondering if he is some sort of artist, because who else has long white hair?
- They have him confused with some specific person.
- They actually know him and are insulted that he doesn’t recognize them.
- They find him attractive. Anything is possible, the god of the office reminds himself. There was a guy on the teevee on the science channel who was in (erotic, not platonic) love with a power plant, he reminds himself. So who knows?
The god of the office, having changed his appearance, has grown used to not being recognized by people he hasn’t seen for a couple years, so being recognized, or “recognized”, feels weird.
He can’t stop wondering about the people.
They had that look you get when you see someone famous and want to be discreet. He had it himself when he was walking through town one night and saw Michael Haneke and his beautiful wife swaying drunk down the sidewalk, laughing, that look where you’re thinking, OMG MICHAEL HANEKE AND SPOUSE! ACT NORMAL!
Maybe they thought he was Michael Haneke, the god of the office thinks. Long white hair, white beard, beautiful wife.
What is Michael Haneke doing with all those Christmas cards, they might have asked each other.
And why is he wearing that shabby coat?
P.S. he is only 20 minutes late to work, and is the first one back.
This is the second plate I took of the same red-and-white roses that day – in a glass vase on a table in front of a wooden fence. Outdoors, drizzling and wintry and starting to get dark, so the exposure on this one was 90 seconds. Same wooden German travel camera from sometime in the early 20th century, Carl Zeiss lens. (I guess I can stop writing that since this is the only camera/lens I currently have.)
f3.5, 90 seconds. Lea’s Portrait collodion #2, ordered from Mamut in Prague, and the first time using homemade developer (I spilled the last dose of store-bought developer I had). Black aluminum plate 13x18cm (5×7″).
This picture is a lot softer than the previous one, which is largely due to the different collodion recipes used, I think. It has a lot of streaks on it, which I am assuming are from the new developer I am using – maybe a different formula? Could also have something to do with the temperature, it was getting cold and although I poured everything indoors, the plates were outside for a minute or so each.
Weather is grey and drizzly and no one in the family wants to sit still for the minute or so it currently takes for an exposure in those conditions. These are some dried red/white roses in a vase on a table in front of a wooden fence. Taken with a wooden German travel camera from sometime in the early 20th century, Carl Zeiss lens. f3.5, 75 seconds. Old Workhorse collodion (IIRC), and the second-to-last dose of developer I ordered from Mamut in Prague. Black aluminum plate 13x18cm (5×7″).
Suddenly the Invisible Man is besieged by old snapshots.
Snapshots on the walls of his daughter’s empty apartment when he drops off something.
Including one of his wife wearing fairy wings and waving a magic wand while his daughter, as a child, regards the camera with a sober expression.
Snapshots in frames on his desk, or taped to the walls.
Including one of his wife smiling in a blue swimming pool, holding his daughter as a toddler, also smiling.
So much sunshine and smiling.
There are more. In one he carries his daughter on his shoulders. It is from before he became invisible. It is underexposed and he has black hair and a black beard and looks scary. His daughter is hugging his head. They are surrounded by flowers.
(It is the older daughter in most of the pictures, because the pictures of the younger daughter are mostly digital, and lost forever, or somewhere hard to recover).
Looking at all these pictures would be bad enough for the Invisible Man for the nostalgia alone but it’s worse.
The Invisible Man thought being invisible was bad, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. The snapshots goof up time and the Invisible Man becomes unstuck and encounters all his past selves, and the past selves of those he loves.
If you think being invisible is bad – and listen, it is, robbing banks is fun only so long – becoming unstuck in time and encountering all your past selves really sucks.
Because it turns out every single one is a stranger.
Those past selves you remember don’t even exist.
Memory is funny that way.
And in many cases, not every single one of these past selves is someone you’d care to remember.
There is a reason memory does that.
This is why forgiveness is so important.
Because sometime the snapshots add up and time dissolves and then what?
He calls his wife and apologizes.
Water under the bridge, she says.
Odin wonders, did kittens have something to do with the loss of his one eye and he made up the story about the spring of wisdom because it sounded more divine?
He wonders, is that what happened to Van Gogh and he made up the whole cut off his own ear story because mad artist sounded better in the 19th century than kitten?
See Odin woke up at 3.30 with a kitten gnawing on his ear, making nomnomnom sounds and purring sounds, and smacking its lips.
It also bathed his entire head as he tried to fall back to sleep.
You ever try to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night with a kitten chewing on your head? he asks the crows.
Of course not.
Of course not. The crows aren’t even there, Odin is just imagining them today. His wife packed him a lunch and he ate it early in his office and now he’s sitting there while workmen drill holes in brick walls on all sides and concrete walls and do other things similarly noisy to floors and ceilings with other power tools.
What say the slain?
Here is what I wish for you: that one day you lay aside the millstone of recognition for just a second and driving down the street, say, you see a young woman walking toward you on the sidewalk, smiling in the morning sunshine, on her way to work, dark hair flowing in the breeze and unaware of you and the sight of her makes you happy and you think, what a beautiful, together, strong, happy, professional-looking, competent, smart, intelligent, interesting, charismatic and unique woman and only then after this objective reaction to a stranger, realize she is your daughter.
What say the hanged?
Seeing yourself at the center of creation is a failure of imagination.
Weather is weird.
This is no season. This is no proper season. Seventy degrees in November.
This is no season.
How are you, he tells the kid.
There should be fog covering that field, but there is only warm dry air.
How are you, how is a person supposed to answer that, he says.
Someone asked me that, he says, once, and it totally threw me because I paused to think about it instead of just say, fine.
The kid chuckles. Yeah.
I was all like, objectively or subjectively?
By whose standards?
What time frame are we looking at?
You walk to the store. A kid has a party, another kid says, your cat is so cute, the first kid says, that’s not my cat, and suddenly you’re walking to the store for extra catfood on your lunch break, plus something from the bakery in case a crow passes your way.
Of course it does.
Every day is the same. Get up, make coffee, read, clean something, feed cats, take shower, get dressed, go to work. Get lunch, or don’t get lunch. Read. Go home. Clean something, go to bed.
At a certain level of magnification, anyway. At a microscopic, sub-atomic level, I suppose things vary wildly. This electron will only ever be exactly here once.
This quark, now you see it, now you don’t.
Just say you’re fine.