These are photos I took at the Dallas Museum of Art in February and they are accompanied by a conversation I had with someone on WhatsApp last Sunday. I haven’t actually met this person before, and I sometimes wondered if our interactions/conversations would be different face-to-face.
It made me think of the nature of memory. What would happen if a neurological condition caused our collection of memories to collide and intertwine, throwing chronology and logic out the window? What makes my memory of actually visiting a museum more genuine than bits of data relayed between two people across the globe?
So I decided to “superimpose” one memory on to the other. This is an imagined conversation between us as if we were walking through the various galleries of a large fine arts museum.
Me: The first time I ever prayed was when I woke up next to my grandma, who used to sleep next to me, and saw her eyes open. She had a stroke. Last time I saw her alive and she was halfway into heaven already.
Her: How old were you then?
Me: 7 or 8.
Her: Who taught you how to pray?
Me: Death. Death taught me.
Her: Whom did you pray to?
Me: Maybe God. Perhaps no one.
Me: When we went to the Philippines for the funeral, I blacked out the whole burial.
Her: What did you pray for?
Me: I prayed for the universe to make itself whole again after falling apart. I thought, “Maybe Jesus can come down here to Queens and make my lola normal again like he did with Lazarus.”
Me: Another random fact–I tried to commit suicide at 14.
Her: You knew that story at 7? Wow. I don’t think I recall it at that age.
Her: What did you want out of life at 14?
Me: To stop self-destructing. And be a good son. And make something of myself.
Her: Did you get what you wanted?
Me: Yes and no. I accomplished things I set out to do. But in the end I’m still the same kid.
Her: On no. Why do you think not?
Me: I think I could do more. Be better. But then I realized all I needed to do was be myself, but be a better person. I think I wanted to be something I couldn’t be.
Her: That’s good. Don’t stop being a good person, but don’t stop being yourself. I think part of maturing is accepting who we really are and not constantly wanting to be something we are really not. Hard to keep up appearances. Tired of that long ago.