A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend in rural Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up. He had an old red Alfa Romeo convertible that he rarely drove, and I wanted to see if it was still there. I opened a shed door on his property, the indraft of new air stirring motes of dust, of the scent of rodents and rest. The car was there in the dark, wrapped in a heavy pale cover and partly obscured by boxes and lawn furniture stacked upon it. The last time I drove it was more than five years ago, with my father.
Our home movies, when I was a child, were shot on 8mm film and projected in the living room. We set up a portable screen or maybe we cast the images on a wall. The film canisters were robin blue and we wrote the date and subject on them with black permanent marker. While I’m sure those films covered the usual range of family activities – picnics, camping, sandcastles by the seashore, sturdy, stubborn children, the only images I recall now are of machines and movement – of me driving a tricycle again and again into a wall, or my father racing his rare yellow Porsche Elva up hills and around race courses.
I should clarify. When I say I recall, what I actually mean is that there is a flickering in my mind of a flickering image on the wall, and particular gestures. The wave of a hand, a flashed smile, the moment of impact and a child’s jerking head. The other details may not exist, at least not on film. Such as the time my father drove his car into a tree, because his brakes had failed. I witnessed that accident, or rather I have a clear image in mind of it.
As I’ve written this, casting about for more fragments of image, I’ve been fighting a sense of alarm and confusion. I’ve been mislead by the indistinct form of your shrouded vehicle. I’ve never driven my friend’s convertible, up and down the steep, shaded Pennsylvania hills, the narrow carriage roads and farm tracks, the lean of our bodies as we spiraled down into ravines, the rush of speed and flickering shadow.