I grew up surrounded by objects, and people shaped by a man I never met.

My Grandfather Carlos had passed away young. That was known. As was the cause, Alzheimer’s. Little else concrete was talked about, but the worst was implied. It hung in the pause in between stories, where the eyes would drift, and words slow. Followed by redirection, a classic retort. In this diversion, they, like the criminal, sought to hide some probable cause in the room. Family struggles with alcoholism, my grandmother’s retreat, how else does one cope with the truth?

I was told: You can’t understand, and why would you want to.

Picked from the scene of this suburban tragedy, the evidence. Carlos’ Porsche that sat in my father’s garage. The car I learned mechanics on. The car eventually sold. The car tattooed on my arm.

 Then upstairs in his apartment, tucked behind the wall of legal boxes, wrapped in a sheet, tins of 8mm films, 35mm contact sheets, and color prints. Through these objects I became acquainted with a man who dies. His films, projected onto the wall had him shine thirty feet tall. His silver bullet sports car in the garage was the model owned by James Dean. They were practically one in the same. Only as real and as fleeting as their images on screen.

 Carlos’ Porsche was sold a year or two ago. A cruel lesson in how finances can trump sentiment. Those boxes of films and photos remained hidden under the sheet in my father’s bedroom. They sat since I was a child, carried and re stowed with each move. As I went back to college my father had me take them away. It was with the push of a journalism course and those films in hand that this project began. I now had the pretext to ask questions. Questions I couldn’t have asked otherwise.

 The man in the films could not be the man who dies.