Something’s been plaguing me for the past month. It has not been intermittent or fleeting. And it’s been haunting me, with progression, throughout my waking hours, quietly rapping on the windows, tugging gently on my sleeve, and softly beckoning my attention. I turned my head from it. Turned my back. Tried not to listen, not to look. But it’s only grown louder and more frightening, banging in my ears and echoing in my head like a scream into a canyon.
And yesterday, I could ignore it no longer. The pot boiled over.
Memories have been accosting me, sliding slyly over me like moonlit shadows, strangling my breath and infecting my mind, transporting me far from the here and the now. All month. Mostly in the car.
And there have been tears. Man, have there been tears.
Funny thing is, they’re all good memories.
Scenes flash before me – a highlight reel, if you will – from over fifteen years ago, at the impetus of a song, a scent, a single word. And I go silent, shake my head, get lost in my thoughts.
The first few riffs of Everything Zen jar me immediately back to walking, on what we called The Boulevard, a long, flat path for bikers, families, and pets. Walking, walking, walking, at age sixteen, in racing-striped pants and white and navy Nikes, daydreaming desperately about getting married, welcoming my first child, having the freedom to just get out, the urgent fire of hope glowing white-hot inside me.
And then there was my first love. My first love, without whom I would not be the person I am today, the person who opened my eyes to, well, mainly everything, the person who, to this day, made the deepest, most easily discernible impression on my heart.
We spent four years together. Almost an eternity. But the early memories fill my throat (and eyes) the most quickly, I would imagine, due to the love chemicals, adrenaline, and, well, vodka. And I will never forget him. Ever.
He drove a Cougar. And he smoked Newports. And a significant death in his family led to his dropping out of high school immediately before graduation. When we met, I couldn’t stand him. I couldn’t get away from him quickly enough. I didn’t like the way he looked, the way he talked, his car, cigarettes, or his cockiness. He repulsed me.
And just like most dime-a-dozen love stories, we fell. Hard.
He was “dangerous”, but not to the point of real harm. He was cocky, but not to a point of distaste. He was free. He pushed limits. He drove too fast, he was self-indulgent, and he emerged from every situation better off than when he entered. His emotions ran deep. And he expressed them. He was everything I wasn’t aware I was inside. And he taught me how to love. He became beautiful to me.
We used to take drives on warm summer nights with the windows down, Rage Against the Machine cutting swiftly through the silence. He drove fast, clinging precariously to the curves of the back roads. He plucked at each straining, tired finger, helping me let go of the entire world onto which I was so vainly and helplessly hanging. He showed me what it felt like to be alive. I can still see the full moon out his window, feel the warm, humid wind in my hair, my heartbeat accelerating with each turn, the intoxication of a million blooming roses, the scent of his hair.
I think about those drives often.
And then, just like that, there I am, in jeans that were clearly too tight, shoes that were too high, and my shirt unbuttoned a bit too far, at the eighteen-plus warehouse-turned-nightclub, strobe lights and manufactured fog assaulting my senses, the bass lines of The Beastie Boys pounding straight through me, laughing loudly with friends, drinking Kahlua Sombreros. And he was there. He was always there. Guiding. Teaching. Protecting.
These few memories, among so many others, are seared so deeply in my mind, I’ll don’t think I will ever forget. And the strength of our bond, I hope never to forget, either. And who says I have to?
We didn’t have a song. We had all of them. We didn’t have a restaurant. They were all ours, too. But we weren’t long for this world. We weren’t meant to be. I firmly believe, though, he was placed in my path to teach me more lessons than I would have learned in a lifetime, and for that, there’s no measure of gratitude I can express.
I smile a silent smile whenever I hear Meet Virginia by Train. In our conversations that went on, literally, for years after we ended our relationship, he confided that was his song for me. I can only hope that he does the same.
My tears? They fall now because I know I’ll never make memories this strong again. Neither the timing nor the chemistry will ever be the same. Besides, it’s hard to dream when living with the constant preoccupation of keeping my children safe, fed, and happy, wondering if the hornet spray we bought will be harmful to them, paying the bills, wiping the noses, and being the oil to the gears of my family.
So, I guess I’m holding onto the world again, with both hands, keeping it from bouncing over my children and my husband, keeping its immeasurable weight from rolling over me. But at least I tasted the sweet nectar of complete freedom. And was fortunate enough to experience unbridled love.
I may shed a few more tears before this is through. Or many more over the next several years. Though bittersweet, the experience helped to make me whole, something I feared I’d never be. And because I am whole, I possess the tools to raise my children as such. And just feeling that, knowing that, may always have the power bring me to my knees.