About 9 months after my friend Sean passed away, I started to watch the videos I took at his memorial service... I watched Susan, and was a little taken aback to find the story she'd told was different from my vivid memory of what she'd said that day( the type of Mexican facility in question and mode of boarding the truck in which he crossed the border stand out as drastic changes); then I skipped forward to watch myself, and had to stop, feeling suddenly ill at what I heard.
I had never realized that, because of the particular wording, all the things I said( link) in trying to convey that I was in awe of him, *could* be read in another, self-aggrandizing way to belittle him. But that pompous, mocking interpretation is undeniably what I watched “myself” doing in the video... for about 20 seconds. Over the course of a few more tries, I was too overwhelmed to get through it, but I did comfort myself remembering how afterwards, his friends treated me with a level of kindness I very much doubt they'd have been able to muster if I'd really sounded like that on that day.
But what, then, is this video? It’s real. It's here on my hard drive; if you know me in person, just ask and I'll show you. It's like a funhouse mirror nightmare. To start out, the “me” on camera snaps at the woman standing next to him to hold the device with a vague, rude imperative bark of the noun, followed by an annoyed re-iteration at her confusion. Actual me had asked her ahead of time between two prior speakers, since I was the only one recording it.
He… I… then proceed(s) to make myself sound like I think I'm the best thing that ever happened to Sean, which I doubt anyone except Sean himself ever said, nor do I think anyone ever believed it( he said it in a spirit of something akin to affectionate exaggeration). “My” reading in the video almost comes across more like an audition monologue to play Mitt Romney or Donald Trump than as any kind of heartfelt personal remembrance.
It was another 4 years before I finally managed to MAKE myself power through the whole thing. I did so whilst rereading it aloud as intended, in counterpoint to that somehow-parodized delivery—to prevent myself from crying in horror & shame & a sense of failing my friend; instead my tears were hot and angry. I had to pause the video and breathe a few times because, as much as I didn't want it to sink in, I couldn't sustain letting it all pile up.
I don't understand how or why this was done, but although my two mutual acquaintances with him( one who'd joined us on a particularly lazy afternoon, the other being the one who alerted me to his passing & got me into the habit of referring to him by his surname) both flaked on the day of the memorial, I'm confident that the available recording could not, as I mentioned earlier, be a representation of the actual events: it would have never even permitted the sympathy & warmth shown to me after, much less encouraged the lovely conversations. But... where did this version come from, then? How?