Just Call Me Sartre

Just Call Me Sartre

I finally decided to open the old trunk that I’ve left sealed up as tight as a drum for what seems like ages now. It has bits and pieces of my history packed in so tightly that two strong men were hard pressed to move it to my new place on Auburn Ave. last Summer without hurting themselves. They begged me to unpack it first, but I was reluctant to unleash the memories.

Other than wanting to move the trunk again to a place in the basement more out of the way, I’m not sure why I decided to allow the heavy ghosts to stir. I found a lot of little treasures I’d forgotten about. One of the best finds was an old contact sheet from when Andrea, my best friend from childhood and I took her dad’s camera for the day. We wandered all around snapping birds and bicyclists, treetops and houses. That was a significant event in my past because it marks the moment I knew I wanted to “become” a photographer.

Among the old photographs, home videos, darkroom supplies and memorabilia, I uncovered a calendar I’d purchased when I first moved to Buffalo to begin grad school. On the last page I had written the following…

“For a hundred dead stories there still remain one or two living ones. I evoke these with caution, occasionally not too often, for fear of wearing them out, I fish one out again and see the scenery, the characters, the attitudes. I stop suddenly: there is a flaw, I have seen a word pierce through the web of sensations. I suppose that this word will soon take the place of several images I love.”

I couldn’t help laughing at myself. What must have been going through my head to make me write such dramatic lines in the back of my calendar?

Upon looking a little closer, however, I discovered that, although the passage had been written in the calendar by me, the words were not my own. Apparently I had been reading Nausea at the time, and I was so moved by that passage that I wrote it down. I went straight to my book shelf to search for Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre. I flipped through the pages and skimmed for the passage. Sure enough, on page 33 my pen marks directed me to the words. For some reason I did not include the entire passage in my calendar. It continues as follows…

“I must stop quickly and think of something else; I don’t want to tire my memories. In vain; the next time I evoke them a good part will be congealed.”

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