For the past couple months, every time I have taken a picture with my phone I've received an error message of increasing urgency (YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF SPACE). Anyone who knows me knows that I am somewhat of an archivist, not to say a packrat, and might (correctly) surmise that I am every bit as sentimental with my digital 'stuff' as with, say, papers and sweaters and pens that haven't worked since the century began with 19. So the phone-storage message has been more than a little distressing.
But I hit my own limit of acceptability on the first afternoon of a much-anticipated trip to Israel when the phone told me it could not take a picture of a statue in Tel Aviv. The reality check finally registered. And so on that first night in a completely foreign place, I spent an hour going through all 3500 of the photos I had stored, image after image from my life since I got the phone in 2008. Memories and reminders and chuckles and tears. The things I snapped because they stitched me together somehow. And I had to press 'delete.'
I kept all the pictures of my Dad, including the ones from the hospital. The first picture I took when I got my phone was of Dad. It stays. I kept most of the pictures of my beautiful niece and her wonderful parents (and I confess I had a pang even about deleting the blurriest ones). I kept the photos surreptitiously snapped in the tomb of Alexander the Great's father and son (no, I was not supposed to take that one), and of everything from Greece, Montenegro, France, Italy, and Korea. I kept most of the bonfire pictures from the first Christmas when I stayed in Baton Rouge.
I kept every picture taken following pedicures with friends.
I deleted the pictures of my class performing skits in December 2008 (the worst grammar class I have ever taught). I figured, if I can't remember the students' names, I shouldn't be sentimental about their end-of-semester interpretations of Prévert's poem 'La porte que quelqu'un a ouverte'. The pic of Kirsten and Kat, though, wearing their paper moustaches and Groucho Marx glasses after a somewhat postmodern version of 'Le Laustic,' I saved.
I deleted a bunch of pictures of my beloved cat Brontë, who succumbed to cancer after 19 years of a beautiful companionship. I could not bring myself to remove all of them. Every single angle made me feel her all over again, and miss her still.
And I deleted the photos from my last relationship. I had been holding on to them - for some reason I'm not certain of, maybe a sort of documentary insistence that it happened despite his reluctance ever to acknowledge me - and when the first of them popped up in the photo album I gave a little start. ('You !') The first one felt weird, as though in erasing his image I was also erasing a piece of my life that I lived in an important way, if not always a way I can be proud of. As I kept pressing that red button, though, I felt lighter and freer about the whole thing. My heart is elsewhere now, happier, safer, better. I don't need these reminders. The last image disappeared and I wished it godspeed for its journey into the virtual ether. 'Thanks for being part of my own path,' I said to the photos and the memories and the man. 'I release you.'
700 photos lighter, I went to sleep.