Dearest Rachel –
Well, I knew it had to happen someday. After all, we only had the camcorder with us for a limited amount of time before it disappeared somewhere amongst the piles – to say nothing of the fact that digital mini-tapes turned out not to be the wave of the future as far as recording video went. So it stands to reason that, as I’ve been playing the tapes through the converter box, I’d eventually run out of material.
Honestly, I should be glad that it’s taken as long as it has. Since I’ve only been at the ‘office’ a couple of days each week, the process has been relatively slow. Even on the most productive days, I’ve only been able to process four or five tapes (since I have to run each one through at speed). And as I find myself listening to and observing each one as they run, I’ve been hearing your voice and seeing your face as much as – perhaps even more than – I could expect to.
It still makes me long to have those days back, of course.
But I know they’re irretrievably behind me, and I can’t go back there and see you any more than I can see and interact with Daniel at eight or ten or twelve years of age, gazing in awe at the lights of Tivoli, petting a dinosaur at Universal Studios or running pell-mell through this or that cruise ship. Those images on these tapes are just that – images of the past. I watch them as a silent, invisible observer, unknown to the cheerful figures enjoying the sights, the sounds and the people around them, virtually unaware of those that might watch them in the future.
And as I come to the last few tapes to convert, I’m almost hesitant to finish the job. Because in some ways, these last few frames will be the last new images I have of you, the last echoes of your voice and your laugh, and the last reminder that once upon a time, not so very long ago, things were well for a few moments here and there. I don’t want to lose the thought that there might be more of you yet to find.
Even now, as I pull out the last few tapes, I find myself somewhat disappointed at what I’ve managed to discover. It’s bad enough when I’ve got the camera focused on a performance or parade, a seascape or sunset. But the last two tapes I’ve gone through, for example, were from an AnimeCentral long past, where one of us- it’s not entirely clear from the conversation beforehand – was shooting footage of some parody anime being screened at the Midnight Madness event, with the concern that we might not see these shows again, as it wasn’t for sale or available to copy for us to view later on at our leisure. It was a matter of watching it at that moment in time (and in my case, hope I didn’t fall asleep, given the lateness of the hour) or never get a chance to see it again.
And wouldn’t you know it? Now it turns out that we can watch either of them anytime we want to. But we didn’t know that back fourteen years ago. And the kicker is that, we barely got any visuals on screen, just the audio (which admittedly contains all of the jokes, but still…) and the audience reactions. That’s it. I mean, I can hear your laugh in amongst them, but that’s hardly enough to make it worth converting.
It might be worth saving, though, I suppose. It’s true that, while we could watch these online – and actually have physical copes of both shows as well – it is the audience reaction that makes it worthwhile, I guess. After all, what’s Rocky Horror Picture Show without the audience? A dull, crappy movie – let’s face it. That’s why people started catcalling at the screen in the first place. And there same principle applies here (not that these parodies are bad per se – it’s that the reactions are what truly sell it).
But it’s not something I’m looking for right now. I’ve already offered so many regrets for not having you on camera enough already. Watching anything like this feels like I wasted tape – even though Jan and I have found tapes that haven’t even been unwrapped, let alone used. But again, we thought we would look at these tapes together again someday, and have a chuckle over these old memories. Now, of course, they’re just mine, and – for right now, at least – they’re too painful to bear alone, when I could have been watching you.
I don’t know what might be on the last few tapes – unlike most of the ones from our travels, there’s nothing marked on the labels. For all I know, they could be completely blank, which would be a truly cruel prank Past Me has played on myself. Of course, that’s being too hard on him – or rather, me. I’m sure he – I – meant to use them for something, unwrapped them… and just didn’t get around to doing anything with them. Then again, there might actually be something worth watching on them after all. I just don’t know.
I suppose the only way to find out is to go through them.
But then, I will be coming to the end of my collection of you. And I don’t know if I’m ready for that.