"At the beach, life is different. A day moves not from hour to hour but leaps from mood to moment. We go with the currents, plan around the tides, follow the sun."
Do people still keep photo albums or are all our photographs squirreled away in the clouds of the internet? Have they gone the way of the VCR, pen-pals and immoveable house-phones - in the museum of yesteryear and obsolescence? Would my four-month-old son understand the crescent phone receiver symbol on our smartphones and the sealed envelope in our e-mails, when neither of these objects have features that look anything remotely analogous to those symbols? I remember weekends when I would make my great-grandmother show me her yellowing photo albums filled with sepia memories and have her explain the story behind every picture - because photography used to be expensive sorcery that people employ to capture the light that important moments reflects, so there are almost always stories.
Just before I bought my new digital camera, I dug up my old one to see what I could scavenge from its carcass. I was delighted to find my old 8-gigabyte SD card entombed within it and after plugging it to the resurrecting electricity of computer, I found that it was still holding on to the last pictures I took before my old camera turned into a paperweight. It felt as if I just re-discovered a long lost photo album. It felt as if I restored memories I never had like some kind of amnesiac time-traveller.
Amongst the pictures were some I've taken one morning at the Damai Beach at Santubong, just half-an-hour's drive outside of Kuching. The Exif data embedded in these pictures dates them to 28 December of 2011; another testament of the superiority of data over human memory.
|Santubong River on the way to Damai Beach.|
I thought some of the pictures were none too shabby and wondered why I had let them languish in data hell for so long until I came across some pictures of Ex-Girlfriend the Third™ interspersed among them, but she dumped me about one month after these pictures were taken. What you won't see in the Exif data of these photos is information telling you that she was standing just outside of frame in all of them.
Maybe that's why I hadn't bothered to take them out of the SD card in the first place. Maybe that person who was me two years ago was grieving. Maybe I was just lazy. Just two years have past and I can't remember which.
|Damai Beach. "Damai" means "peace" in the Malay language.|
A lot have happened in the two years since that morning at Damai. I met someone else. I got married to her. We had a baby boy together. Now, our kid is four months old (but has the build of a six-month-old and the drool-producing capacity of a full-grown adult St Bernard). At the time, it felt like I would never move on - the same as how I felt when I broke up with the girlfriend before the last (the one I dubbed the Ex-Grrrfriend™). We are really myopic, aren't we? Why do we get so hung up over things which we probably wouldn't care about just a few lunar cycles down the calendar? Why do they throw our lives into disarray? Why do we throw our lives away on account of short-term miseries?
|Small blue-and-purple crab spotted at Damai during low tide.|
|HALP, I AM DROWNING.|
At that time, I had just moved to the city of Kuching for my first real job as a House Officer at the state hospital and after I had settled down, I invited my then-girlfriend to come and visit for Christmas and to celebrate our fourth anniversary (which is on Boxing Day as the Exif data on one of the other pictures in the SD card testified). I have taken these pictures for keepsake and remembrance, for when I need help to reminisce about our brief time together at the end of 2011's December that punctuated the marathon of our long distance relationship. These pictures meant something to me back when they were taken. They were important. They had stories to tell a future me.
|A tiny hermit crab.|
Now, they are just some pretty pictures.
Without a second thought or even much of a first thought, I had deleted all the pictures that my ex-girlfriend was in. I held shift and pressed delete and just like that, they are gone beyond recovery to the Great Big Data Sink in the Sky. Doing that might have pained me two years ago because they were precious and irreplaceable - they were the only evidence I have of the four years I have spent being with this girl - but now, I couldn't even pretend to care. They were relics of another life and I have trouble believing that that life was ever mine.
Perhaps, after the passage of another two years, I wouldn't even remember why I was at the beach on the 28th of December, 2011.
|A goby of some persuasion.|
Time and tide. We pair them in our proverbs and aphorisms because they are a bit like each other - they represent the relentless erasure of the past. Memories are but lines in the sand. With enough time and enough tide, they would disappear without a trace, only leaving behind salt-washed blankness. It would be as if they were never there to begin with.
P.S. All pictures taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ15.
A frequent forgetter,
k0k s3n w4i