№ 40: Celluloid Time Machine

Mayumi on film, drying after development

35°51’04.9″N 139°39’16.3″E

Rainy season has come early this year, and so has my annual effort to catch up on undeveloped film. I’m not sure how many rolls there are, but I’d guess about fifty. This isn’t too bad, at least compared to ten years ago when it was close to two hundred, but still far more than it should be.

Most of it is recent, shot within the last year, but mixed in are a handful of stragglers from much longer ago. Sometimes these rolls are just misplaced for a while, and sometimes I put them off again and again because they require special development that I just don’t feel like dealing with. Others seem to have come through some kind of time warp.

When hanging film to dry last Sunday, I was surprised to notice pictures of an ex-girlfriend on one roll. This was the ex who once inspired panic attacks whenever I saw someone at a distance who even resembled her even a little. The ex who I left when I moved to Japan by myself to start over.

After leaving her, I deleted or destroyed almost every photograph of her I had. There aren’t many left.

Part of me wanted to throw the whole strip of film in the trash and forget I ever saw it. And I might still excise those particular frames, but jettisoning the whole thing seemed unfair to the other photographs. I realized, too, that on every other roll of film I had hung to dry, there were snapshots of my partner, Mayumi, and that made me feel better.

Had I not spent those years with my ex, I wouldn’t have arrived in Japan when I did. Had I arrived at a different time, I probably wouldn’t have met my partner. Thankfully, I did.

The joy I have with Mayumi firmly outweighs the suffering of past relationships. I adore her.

I have zero interest in having my ex, or her image, in any part of my life. Still, I should be grateful that the experience of being with her, painful though it was, led me to where I am, and who I’m with, today.