Things I Don’t Want to Forget

In fear of losing the fleeting moments of life, Tyler Magyar preserves them in their natural form — the animated GIF.

I remember the chill in the air as I sat by the window. I remember wondering where I’d be in six months and in six years. I remember the train and the broad street it ran along, poorly-lit and well-manicured. Along its median, a long strand of cyan-white train cars would ramble along the elevated platform every five-or-so minutes, bathing the sidewalk in gold as its passengers yawned or read or stared. I would watch their faces, wondering what they were thinking about. I would wonder where they were going, and if the saw me. Sometimes, I would wave. Then they’d vanish and black would rush over the streets, as if theater.2This is a thing I don’t want to forget. Just like the upturned glasses in the corner bistro, holiday lights frantic with light.3I remember the vantage point where two particular streets met in the neighborhood where I worked, and how I always stopped and stood with hopes that I could somehow commit the tableau to memory. A pair of buildings sat across from one another in the calm of a weekday, shadowed save for the highest floors. Beyond them, the river flowed north, beneath an ornate bridge. There was absolute stillness and the scurried rush of passing cars and nothing in between. It was the city’s sixteenth district, where the wealthy dominated. I called it “the canyons.”4
This is a thing I don’t want to forget. The city of light, but in a subtler sense than you’d assume.5I remember an apartment in Brooklyn I toured that had a Chinese food restaurant beneath it. The entire bedroom was cast in red light from the restaurant’s illuminated sign. Even the closet glowed. I envisioned nights overtaken with insomniac bursts and flashing lights, a family name projected illegibly across the ceiling. Abroad, however, I always wanted a view of one of those ubiquitous plus-sign neon lights that perch above pharmacies. I fell transfixed by the time I got one. I would sit and stare, trying to predict the pattern of the light sequence.
6The yawns of blue and green from the corner of the window. The calm it afforded me. This is a thing I don’t want to forget. That pharmacy. That window. That apartment. That version of myself.

After a thousand days of blue-green light, I bought a one-way ticket to my old home. So began the little films, the perpetually looping scenes.7I remember the reflections which caught my eye, the scrolling billboards and the ever-humming escalators and the traffic and the leafless branches as they twitched within a light wind. Photographs seemed insufficient, though I took them all the same. It was worth trying, at least. Tempting permanence. Things which once bored me — or lay ignored — now enjoyed my undivided, ecstatic attention. My camera kept me busy, happy.8While I was in the city of my tiny cinema, I drafted up short films in my head and scribbled out overly-specific shot lists. None had plots. The ambition I had — and maintain, frankly — was not simply to capture but to summarize, to keep. I walked quickly from place to place until I was struck with something. Then I stood still, observed, and took a great many consecutive photographs. Time ceased, if but for a moment.9When the moment expired, I’d set up shop at the desk near the window, near the pharmacy sign’s persistent glow and the street and the train and the city. On the computer, I’d stitch the images together into a little montage, accompanying the process with moody music and a glass of cheap wine. I’ve found these little films to be most successful with such pairings.10I’d become obsessed. My solitary focus was no longer the present, save for the persistence of a countdown. I became fixated upon how the past will situate itself in the future. Yes, the things I don’t want to forget.

11The ambition of these images is to remain somewhere, forever, in a very small yet perhaps profound way. These images are simple and imperfect but they’ve achieve what I’d hoped. They are perfect because they exist, not because they are beautiful. Still, I find them beautiful. It’s the closest thing to what my memory sees, I suppose — a Mobius strip populated with light and motion and life.

I still revisit them sometimes—
12in fear of forgetting—13which I refuse to do.14

Tyler Magyar worries too much and lives in the Northeastern United States. He hopes to one day archive his entire memory in ornate, fragrant boxes. He is a good dinner guest, a satisfying cuddler, and a terrible liar. A post-rock band will play at his wedding, where there will be a lot of speeches. Tyler's projects can be found on his website.