letters from here, somewhere
19 03 23
It was around twelve o’clock. I waited with patience and anxiety for Y, as he had promised to aid in my moving into my new home. Half of my belongings were already stored at his dwelling, the other half already in my car. All we needed to do was make a few trips before the sun descends.
He glimpsed at me, now nearly one in the afternoon, and questioned my outfit of choice—an all-black affair including a long vintage coat over a minidress and fishnets tights. I told him it was simply how I felt at the moment: melodramatic and bittersweet. I was dressed for a funeral, to bid farewell to this epoch of my life and welcome the next period of creative genesis.
We began hauling boxes from my car, through a creaky wooden gate, and into my room. I stood in the middle of the stark room as he carried the last box into the room. After observing my few belongings disheveled in the room, Y remarked that I had very little. I disagreed—I thought I had too much. Scattered in the room were few boxes of art supplies, photography equipment, miscellaneous dry foods, a suitcase full of red clothing and black cloaks, and canvases both painted and primed. This space was not to be a bedroom. I had intended it to be my studio—a haven for my newfound marriage with art.
I placed my father’s Polaroid camera into Y’s hands with care and asked him to help me take some self-portraiture of me in my new space. He obliged and we spent the next thirty minutes shooting, he handling my nervousness with patience as I fidgeted around in my room, unsure of where to stand. I wasn’t used to having someone else in the same space as I shoot self-portraits, but letting him into that process felt natural as we were artistic collaborators. I have entrusted my camera with him, my vision into his eyes.
We opened the side door that opens out to the patio to let a river of light into the room. I laid out my legs under the coffee table and picked at my fishnets tights, while Y captured me. As I arranged and rearranged the two pieces of furniture I had—a wooden easel my father had gifted me at the age of twelve, and a vintage mirror coffee table, I began to accept the sinking feeling in my chest that is the reality of the situation. This was a momentous change in my life, the first time I truly chose to rid the past, the first time I allowed myself to fall free and blindly into passion.
We set the developing black and white polaroids into a box and check with enthusiasm every five minutes, observing the squid-ink black gently fading into hues of jade green, before nesting into charred ombres of sepia and black. I realised that this pack of film we just shot with, was the last pack of film I bought before leaving the country for a year. How beautiful was it, that it is the first set of film I used to shoot the first series of self-portraits since coming back home.
My first night sleeping here arrived a few days late. By nightfall, I was curled up in my tiny daybed with no sheets and two blankets. By morning, I woke up to a flutter of ivory curtains canvassing the windows. As I stared at the glimmer of morning light, I felt incredibly grateful to be living out my dream. Choosing to be an artist was never a decision I had to make, it was something that had its own mind and took over me, while I surrendered unconditionally.
I pressed my nose against the glass and watched the ridges of the mountains go up and down like a heart rate monitor, as Fred drove us far too fast than I was comfortable with. The contour of the never ending fjords undulated as the pale sky carved into the rocks. Fred was driving us to his temporary home, for his temporary work all the way up north of Norway by the Arctic Circle. It was nearly one in the morning but I was still wide awake despite twenty hours of traveling. It was foggy outside and the sky was milky and opaque. The sun strung itself high in the sky with such force and tenderness.
My head had always been in the clouds, but finally I could live in one. They dipped so low that they hugged the mountains and grazed the grass. It was my favourite weather because I felt as if I was living in a reverie, and only an earthquake could shake me out of it.
I spent these days lying in the sun, walkin on the islands, and catching up on television. Though I thirsted to create, my friends told me to stay still and enjoy the fresh air. I was so used to listening to background noise of cars and chatter during the past year of living in Seoul, but now I could finally immerse myself in my own thoughts devoid of interruptions.
The change was still too much for me to process—my calendar now was empty and in turn I felt a sense of loss. My mind told me to keep moving, but my body protested. On these islands, I was limited by my own two feet. So Instead, I laid outside and listened to the sound of the water lapping the rocks.
On one of Fred’s day off, we decided to go camping, as I had never camped before. The closest I had gone to camping was a sleepover in a tent in my friend’s backyard when I was ten. We woke up to an army of ants crawling on top of the tent. I decided that there was no need for me to camp again and spent the next hour watching the shadows of the little critters streak across our polyester sky.
We took a ferry to an island thirty minutes away, and began hiking up to the top of the peak. After two hours, we reach the other side and found ourselves situated between two beaches facing back-to-back. After taking a look around and inspecting the grounds, we finally settled on a spot and pitched our one-man tent. I cleaned our utensils in the clear salt water and watched Fred create a fire from afar. The colours of the fire reminded me of the first night I hung out with him; we were in a bar at two in the morning drinking whiskey and beer. While he was speaking to a friend, I could not help but become transfixed by him, admiring his face glowing from the candle light. That was the night that I decided he was mine.
It became chilly, so we crawled back into the tent and prepared for bed. The sleeping bag clung to my legs which were laced with mosquito bites. Fred wrapped his arms around me and we laid quietly under the midnight sun. The world was silent except for our synchronised breathing. I watched the spiders and caterpillars nestle into the crevices of the tent, and concluded that camping wasn’t so bad after all.
We woke up early on a Tuesday and packed my newly bought suitcase, duffel bag, and backpack into the car for a two hour drive to the airport. It was time to spend the next few months in Sweden, where I would complete an artist residency with fellow artists. I felt nervous in anticipation of another transition, but excited for the opportunity to grow my work. This was my chance to show everyone what I’ve been wanting to say, an opportunity to manifest my thoughts and feelings into tangible art for others to experience.
I looked at Fred and felt nervous again; this was our fifth time meeting at an airport, an unfortunate side effect of being in an international relationship. We had already spent months apart before I came to Norway, and now we will have to spend months apart again. At least the next time we meet will be in my home city of San Francisco.