The beast that is nostalgia

This past weekend, I was driving back home on I-95 N from Delaware. It was about 8:20 pm, and the sun was squatting right between the sky and the highway, right on the cusp of setting. There is this part of 495/95, right around Marcus Hook, PA, that runs parallel with both factory lights and fields. I always thought factories were intensely gorgeous (but hey, this is coming from the same girl that thinks pigeons are majestic, so ignore me) and the fact that it was dusk in June, and I had the windows down, and for the first time all season it hit me dead on in the chest that it was finally summer, and later that night while taking my dog for a walk I saw fireflies in the park…

Do you know those moments in life that seem benign enough while they’re happening but in retrospect they are revolutionary times of change? Like that time on 5th Street, he had said not to wear my headphones while walking alone because it was a dangerous neighborhood and I allowed my eyes to follow him for two blocks, replacing my headphones once he had disappeared safely around the corner. I had thought nothing of it at the time, thinking I’d be spending the night with him the next day. But that was the very last time I saw him…

Life is the culmination of little deaths, of silent deaths. Pieces of us are dying all of the time and we hardly notice until huge chunks of our lives do not happen anymore. Habitual, daily acts change, evolve into different routines so slowly that sometimes it takes years to figure out we’ve lost a piece of ourselves in the first place. 

There was a time in my life that I spent all of my time in either tiny, rented apartments, disgusting dive bars, basement keg parties, or huge, five bedroom houses where ten people lived. These just weren’t random locations in my life – it was my life. And everything was happening so fast and people were coming and going but never staying and I had intense yet fleeting relationships with acquaintances and everybody owned a dog and nobody had kids and we were all single and broke and we all thought our lives couldn’t get any better than this. This was it. We were epic.

But two days ago at 8:20 pm on 95 N, nostalgia came up behind me from out of nowhere and threw a right hook to my left temple. I suddenly remembered this moment I had in ‘05 on the bed of a pickup truck, on a night much like this one. I had driven to the edge of the Delaware River with this guy I was deeply, deeply in love with. Gutter-punk band Fifteen was playing their song Lucky from his car speakers and there was a spot-light weaving side-to-side on the other side of the bridge, advertising a new business that had just opened up. I was 21 and didn’t have a care in the world. I was in college and my future was still set at zero. I knew the strength of my own velocity and didn’t have any bills to pay. Nothing was set in stone. Everything was new.

That time in my life is gone. Not because of burnt bridges or because it was bad, but because of time. I will never be able to experience the kind of freedom that accompanies having no responsibility ever again. I will never be able to drive down to the river’s edge at 3am on a Tuesday with a strange boy and a skirted 40 because I have to be in the cubicle jungle at 9am. I no longer have the luxury of acting on compulsion on a daily basis. No more binge drinking at 2pm or one-day road trips to Canada. Nobody still appreciates my awesome skillz at turning a gourd into a bong or my 25 page thesis on the underlining Edipus-complex Hemingway’s protagonist suffered in The Sun Also Rises

It’s funny how we evolve into adults. It’s funny what we are expected to give up in order to succeed, in order to become self-sufficient and independent and responsible. It’s funny what we lose along the way, and sometimes how we don’t even notice that it’s missing…

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