dana asked me if i lived in movies while we walked around washington dc last summer. her question caught me a bit off-guard, because i had no idea i was so transparent. when i sheepishly admitted my guilt, she confided that she lived in books. of course, we were referring to our fairy tale lives. they were conjured up by our imaginations, and helped distract us from the monotony of everyday existence.

i saw dana again last month, and it made me think about all of the movies i've cast myself in this year. the ones that initially seemed to have elaborate plot turned out to be duds. the ones without focus or direction came together somehow in the end. the co-stars who shared sets with me for several months at a time never came to the cast parties to say their goodbyes. most of all, though, i noticed that i hardly ever turned the camera off. it was almost as if i was one of those mothers who's got a camcorder on her shoulder 24 hours a day. she doesn't want to put it down, because her child is bound to say or do something irresistably cute at any given moment. gotta capture it on camera. gotta preserve it for the archives. thing is, by the time she runs out of film, she's too tired to realize the futility of documentation. too spent to see that she's forgotten to live all those photogenic moments. they may be there on celluloid, but they're really lost in time, never to be recaptured. i've always had a camera encumbering me, too, only mine has been in my mind. i constantly rewind and fast-forward all the tapes, editing the bloopers out and forecasting all the technical difficulties before they've even occurred. i repeated the love scenes most of all, though. those got replayed so often that the tape would wear thin in spots. perhaps it caused them to lose a great deal of clarity, but i rather preferred it that way. by the hundredth viewing, those love scenes were so fuzzy and blurry that even the bleakest ones seemed to have happy endings. the ones that weren't so sad to begin with? well, those all seemed to be set in front of scenic overlooks.

fancying myself an actress kept me from feeling too bad about what was going on during intermission. not very much, of course. once in awhile, when i'd set my camera down, someone intriguing would glance my way with a curious look in their eyes. music would play in the background, and i'd consider asking them to dance, but the words never came out right. instead, i ended up asking them to pose for a picture. i felt safer doing that, because i knew that i could develop the film myself, throw out all the bad shots, and maintain my illusion of love as something flawless and beautiful. besides, learning to dance was a terrifying prospect, as much as i wanted to.