I had an existential crisis when I was in elementary school.
I’m obsessed with old photos. I always have been. When I was little, I used to sit with my maternal grandma and look through all of her old photo albums, over and over again. (And then over and over again again.) She would point out all of the black and white faces and tell me who everyone was. She would talk about them like I knew them, even though I had never met any of them and, for the most part, I never would. This became like a ritual, and neither of us ever got sick of it. (My grandma LOVES to talk.)
SIDENOTE: Just talking about it, I could go for a little flip through those albums.
As I got older I found myself drawn to vintage photographs like nobody’s business. When I’d come across a pile at an antique mall, I’d buy them. Even if they’re just old photographic postcards. I love them. I love them all. I have a couple hanging in my room, and a lot more in various trunks and boxes. Sometimes I’ll grab one and write out what I think the person or family’s story is. Hell, I’ve even made university projects out of my love of old photographs.
SIDENOTE: Sometimes, when the photos are of strangers, I worry that they may be haunted, and my life will be destroyed by my silly obsession with old photographs because I’ll bring one home and it will bring a spirit with it and I’ll never be able to get rid of it, even if I burn the photo or exorcize the house. I mean, what? You don’t do that too?
One day I was playing in the playground at my elementary school. I don’t remember anything special about the day at all. I remember I wasn’t wearing a coat, and there were some leaves on the ground, so maybe it was September. But that’s not important.
What’s important is that I got near the street corner where there was a four-way stop, and something caught my eye. It was familiar, but strange in this context. Something on the street next to the curb, scratched up and dirty, almost entirely covered by leaves.
My school photo. It barely had corners left, it was so scratched up. But there was my face, unmistakeable.
And then in my own, innocent way, I thought some version of this:
How on earth did I get there? Who did this belong to? Guys, I wasn’t a popular kid – I wasn’t giving my photo out to many people, if any (because I always hated my school photos anyway). My mom’s copies were still in her wallet; I checked with her later on. But here I was, my smiling face in the gutter, just blocks from where my real smiling face lived.
I can’t fully explain how I felt in that moment, because I definitely didn’t understand it then. I barely understand it now. But I think a part of me felt almost like I was looking at an old photograph – like one of the black and white ones I loved so much. It was haunting, like looking at a time capsule left by myself from the other side or something.
When I think about looking down and seeing my face in that photograph, a part of me imagines an adult me holding it, even though this happened when I was somewhere between 10 and 12.
But sometimes things just happen. Things that leave you wondering who’s in charge.
*Note: My actual thought was probably something closer to: “………………………………………………………..?”