the top of the bay

For a time in the late ’70s our family made its home on a bluff overlooking Guam’s Tumon Bay.

Back then the Micronesian island was the No.1 destination for Japanese honeymooners, who flocked there on western-style white wedding packages.

From the hotels below many couples espied the perfect vantage for wedding photographs and beat a path through the tropical undergrowth to summit on our front lawn.

There, the pretty little brides and their camera-slung grooms would politely await until they caught someone’s attention to “please, photo”.

In the autumn of ’79 I took dozens of photos of bridal couples poised like happy birds between sea and sky and – as a dubious return courtesy – they took dozens of me.

A photograph of the photographer was an unspoken part of the deal.

I imagined the presence of my lumpy teen self in the newlyweds’ albums being explained to bemused relatives from Akita to Yamaguchi.

“… and this is the fat girl at the top of the cliff who takes photographs”.

Travelling along the Great Ocean Road last week I noticed couples of all walks stopped at lookouts taking their own photographs in that peculiar heads-tight-together-one-arm-outstretched pose of the phone camera.

With some sadness I realised the random helpful stranger who appeared in albums the world over had become redundant – the curled up corner of a memory, like the ghosts on a polaroid left too long in the sun.

But behind the shoji screens and across the tatami mats, the plump girl at the top of the cliff lives on.


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