November 27th, 2005


The videotape

It’s been well over two years since I watched the tape; it was right before I moved to DC when I knelt on the floor in front of the TV, wailing and touching the screen to get just a little closer to the walking and talking Billy I’d captured on the video camera he gave me for our last Christmas. I had the camera for twenty-seven days before I lost him, and much to his reluctance and camera-shyness, I used that time to roll a lot of tape.

It’s been plaguing me these past few years, that tape. When I watched it last, I went into a several day tailspin of tribulation. And I wasn’t even watching the raw stock, but rather the edit that Mickey had made in the mad rush before the funeral because I wanted to give everyone something to take home. When Mickey cautiously suggested that I not look at the original tape because on it, Billy said he felt like he was having a heart attack, I heeded her warning and built that scene in my mind with all of the heartbreak, guilt, and regret that I could have never imagined possible.

I watched the edited tape on Friday, our anniversary, and sure I cried, but I saw something magnificent; Billy and I were happy and playful and loving and I told him over and over how handsome he was. After almost nine and a half years, we'd built an amazing rhythm, one that survived and had grown stronger.

It’s been over two years since I saw him move and talk and laugh. On the tape there were a few important games we played; Small Mouth being the most important, and I don’t even know how to describe it other than to say it maximized his rubbery facial expressions.

But I really needed to see the raw tape. I called Mickey, and while she walked me through how to transfer the High-8 to DV, I asked her about that scene.

“What does he say?”

“Oh, uh, I think he says he’s having a heart attack.”

“What was my response?” My question caught in my throat.

“I dunno. I can’t remember.”

I hung up, rigged the two cameras together, and started to dub. I watched the tiny Sony screen out of the corner of my eye, and when the tape ran close to the end, I crouched down to watch and listen.

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I’ll watch the tape more often now, Mickey’s version, because seeing him and hearing him made me feel alive again. And some day I may be watching it from an enormous circular bed on a large screen and the strains of Dream Weaver will well up on my soundtrack.