PICTURE OF MY LIFE ESSAY #3 The Escape BY JUNPEI UEDA
Reminders Photography Stronghold Gallery will be celebrating its 4th year anniversary. We will be proudly organizing Junpei Ueda’s solo show in upcoming November. He is one of the 2015 Photobook As Object workshop participants and he has been working on his book project “Picture of My Life” almost a year and finally it’ll be launched at the exhibition. Prior to the show, Junpei is sharing a series of his essay.
It was September of 1998. My mother was 49. She suffered from depression, triggered by menopause, and was insomniac for some time, enduring bad headaches, dizziness and anxiety attacks.
After she had locked herself in a small room with a knife, she was hospitalized in Senriyama for three weeks. When she was discharged from the hospital, she returned to her parents’ home to recuperate. I heard she was getting better.
My father took her illness extremely hard. He would get drunk late at night and break down crying, “Your mother is a mad woman. She’ll never be well.” It was the first time that I ever saw my father cry. He wasn’t the cool and calm father that I knew.
Doing good? You’re probably feeling pretty down. I’m worried about you. So’s dad, grandpa and auntie. And So. We’re all worried about you. It seems that you are thinking too much about the non-bright side of things, about the bad things. I think it’s best if you just try to think about things in a happy or fun way.
But there’s no need to rush. Life is long. Slow is all right. That’s what I think.
As for me, I’m getting by just fine here. It seems that dad is having a difficult time. But I’m doing alright. I’m just a little lonely that you’re not here.
Take it easy. Bye bye.
Junpei, thank you for your letter.
I learnt a lot from your kind letter, Junpei. It really cheered me up. I feel truly sorry for making all of you worry so much. I can picture you and everyone working hard together.
Just as you have imagined, I can’t say I’m in a very healthy state at the moment. I would love to get better as soon as possible and go back to being with all of you.
It’s great to hear that your grandpa is doing well too. I know you have your part-time work and all, but you should really take care not to overdo it. If possible, it would be really nice to see you get a proper full-time job.
I didn’t expect you to become an adult so quickly. It seems that I am the one who has trouble being independent.
Be nice to your brother for me. Make sure to listen to your father. Health before everything. Take care of your body.
There are so many things I would like to write about, to talk to you about. But that will have to wait for now.
It is getting colder. Please take care and don’t catch a cold.
“Sorry,” my mother had said faintly when I went to visit her at the hospital.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” I replied gently.
She was sitting on the hospital bed with her legs stretched out in front of her. She looked small and like a little girl about to cry.
“I’m going home. I’ll come again”
“Thank you for the letter.”
“Sure, I’ll write to you again. Mom, take it easy,” I said.
A hospital staff opened the door with the iron bars and let me out. It was dusk and I heard the insects singing a farewell song to summer. My head felt heavy. I took a train and went home alone.
I was 21 and wandering about aimlessly, having failed miserably at every art school entrance exam.
“How can they not choose me? Man, art schools know nothing!” I would tell myself. “I have artistic talent and I’m sharp-witted.” The man who was capable of accomplishing anything was now in limbo, held up by the realities of social non-acceptance. There was a huge gap between my self-appraisal and reality.
In order to dispel the melancholy, I had planned to travel around Southeast Asia with a friend. I even bought a camera with funds I saved from working part-time at a crappy Pachinko parlour. I felt that travelling would really open things up for me and get me out of the rut.
In late October, on the night before my trip, I was packing in my room when I heard my father’s footsteps. I stuck my head out the door.
“Makoto and I are off to Thailand tomorrow for two months. Mom will be fine, right?”
“You’re really going, eh? Well, she seems to be getting better.
I think it’ll be fine. Here, take this with you.”
“Wow, are you sure about this? Thank you.”
“You be careful, you hear? And thanks for the letter. It brought your mom to tears. She was so happy.”
“Oh yeah? Okay, got it.”
My dad went back up the stairs to his bedroom. 20,000 yen. It was the first time he had ever given me so much money.
—- To be continued to #4.
English translation: Miyuki Okuyama
English proofreading: Tan Lee Kuen
Picture of My Life Essay #1 My Father’s Paintings by Junpei Ueda
Picture of My Life Essay #2 My Parents by Junpei Ueda
His exhibition forthcoming November 3rd and 27th.
Picture of My Life has been all pre-ordered.