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Thursday, October 30, 2008

One Picture

posted by on October 30 at 10:57 AM

Two or so years ago, I wrote this about the video for A Flock of Seagulls’ “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”:

The spaceship is at the edge of the galaxy. It’s in hyper-drive. Stars and gas clouds appear, approach, and pass at the speed of light. Out here where no one can hear you scream, the lead singer of A Flock of Seagulls, Michael Score, is suffering because he doesn’t have a photograph of the woman he loves and will never see again. She is on Earth; he is in deep space. And the deeper he flies into the great abyss, the harder it is for him to recall her face—the end of her nose, the lids of her eyes, the flesh of her lips, the whole frame of her beauty.

Desperate, Score uses a computer to reconstruct her image. He types in a few instructions, and on the screen appears what very much looks like his lost love; he gets excited, he presses the print button, the image stutters out of the printer—but it’s all wrong, this is not how she looks like, his memory is failing him. Score crumples the printout and leaves the computer room with a type of grief that only astronauts can understand. If he had just one photograph of her, something to remind him, he wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his life wishing, wishing—wishing he had, before departing Earth, packed a picture of her into his suitcase.

…Only a small number of emotional situations can be worse than this: As the ship passes the rings and moons of Saturn, heading toward the limits of the solar system, suddenly you realize—patting your pockets, searching your bags—you forgot to bring a photograph of the woman you love; the woman whose body, whose beating heart, whose life-breath will never be present to you again. And the space between you and her grows; and the stars are getting colder. [What sorrow can compare to] the galactic sorrow of a lovesick astronaut.

With “Wishing” in mind, I now want to consider not the video of the Cure’s “Pictures of You”…

…but the lyrics, particularly its opening lines:
I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you that i almost believe that they’re real I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel

Robert Smith’s sorrow in “Pictures” is the very opposite of Michael Score’s sorrow in “Wishing”? Smith’s problem is having too many pictures of the one he is missing. In space, Score is longing for just one photograph—even a snap shot, anything! On earth, Smith is tormented by an abundance of images.

What can we make of this? We can say that all the love-sick memory really needs is just one photo? Both Smith and Score would be happier if each had just one photo of the lover they’ve forever lost to time.

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