Author: Robert Beech

Outtake number 334400, uploaded today.

I talked to the kids today. Not in person, just on the computer, but still, it’s good to keep in touch. During the conversation one of them reminded me (again, or so they said) about the outtakes files. They explained (again, or so they said) about how to download the app and put in my password so I could look at the old versions of things I had saved to the cloud, or even ones I had deleted. I wrote the directions down. I’m sure someone a little more tech savvy could have downloaded the app and started scrolling through the files while the conversation was still going on. Or at least made a note and saved it on the computer so I wouldn’t have to keep doing this. Still, I trust the pencil to remember.

After we hung up, I downloaded the app (again, apparently). My computer remembered the password, which was a good thing since I did not. There was a lot of interesting stuff there. Photographs from vacations we had taken when the kids were little, diary entries from when our marriage had started to go bad. The day I blew up at my boss and stormed off the job. The kind of things you would never forget. The problem was, I didn’t remember any of it. It was my face (or at least a younger version of my face) in the photographs. My heart that broke when we realized there was nothing we could do to put the pieces of our marriage back together and my rage and fury that led to my short-sighted decision to slam the door on my career. But it wasn’t me.

I sat there, befuddled, looking at these fragments from the past, a past that belonged to someone who was, and was not, me. As I scrolled through them it came to me that these were the versions of me that I had decided to delete. Too precious to discard, but too painful to keep living through. Somehow, I had put them away into the cloud, made new memories, happier ones, of a life where somehow I hadn’t screwed things up quite so badly or so often. It seemed like a pretty good idea, tucking away all those other choices, those other lives, just keeping the good ones, or at least the not too bad ones (you have to have a few screwups to learn from, don’t you?). But what about all the other people in my life? Maybe the choice that was best for me wasn’t the best choice for my wife or my kids. How do you decide which life to keep and which ones end up in the outtakes? And who gets to decide? Had I decided what lives went into this outtakes file? I couldn’t remember doing it. I hadn’t even remembered there was an outtakes file until that conversation with my kids, so who was doing the editing?

And then I thought, what about the rest of the world? I mean, my life’s not so bad. I have enough to eat, a nice house to live in, 2 cars in the garage, my kids are healthy and, as far as I can tell, even happy. But in other parts of the world people are starving or dying of disease, wars, or political oppression. Shouldn’t the world wars, famines and plagues all get put into the outtakes files, too? Or maybe they already have. I wonder if….

End of recording. Press play to continue to Outtake number 334401.