I remember my favorite English professor in college talked so quickly and said so much in a single lecture that my hand got numb trying to document all his genius and, by the end of the course, I had created my very own version of shorthand in my attempt to capture it. He was so experienced and well-read that I don't think even he knew how to string his thoughts together. That being said, he spit out so many gems and snippets of profoundness in his rants and raves that they have become eternally part of my daily thought flows. My favorite one was his explanation of the whole "once removed, twice removed" deal when it comes to experiencing the world through our senses. He was describing a kid in one of our stories who was watching someone by looking in a mirror and explained that simply looking at something is once removed, as we don't see it as it truly exists, but through the filters of our eyes. He then explained that the character viewed the other character's reflection, thus providing yet another removal from the actual being himself. My professor told us that all we have to experience the world with is our bodies and the senses that come with them. I loved that. Still do.
There are some things that we intentionally take with us when we move on to somewhere or something new. There are other things that stay with us involuntarily - like my professor's many beautiful rambles. Also, this is where people from our past usually fit. For me, there's one particular individual who seems to always float back into my head. I had known him since second grade, when he stole my pencil eraser, tore it into tiny little pieces, then gave it back to me. Quite symbolic of all that would eventually become of us.
We never dated. We never cried together. We never kissed. We never said "I love you." We never let our grades slip because we spent too much time together. We never did anything truly remarkable. But somehow, for whatever reason, I held onto all that we did do. Hugged a few times. Fought over miscommunication and misunderstandings. Made up at a football game and hugged again. Talked about college and how I could visit him on the weekends and go to his basketball tournaments, getting lunch afterwards. Drove me around in his car, the first girl he ever had in there. While in high school, he came to my soccer games and wrestling matches where I cheered. I went to his basketball and baseball games. But we never talked about what "us" could be. Who we were to each other, if anything. We just let lies and disloyal friends come between us, leaving behind an enormous plethora of statements beginning with "what if..." and usually including "...but..." We left high school on bad terms, that apparently never lost their intensity when a few years into college, I showed up at a backyard gathering where he happened to be. The face of "here we go" shot towards his best friend was a not-so-subtle reminder that sometimes, people don't change. Sometimes people hold on to the bad parts of situations. Sometimes, people just aren't meant for you.
A few hours and some jungle mix of liquor later, we ended up on a bench side by side, pushed up against one another, his intense warmth heating my side. We sighed and sat there for a bit. My hazy, yet still fully aware mind knew that we only ended up there because of the liquid courage in our veins. That would happen again years later, when we met each others' gazes across a bar. As history repeats itself when we fail to learn from our mistakes, we again waited until our brains had been altered just enough before approaching each other. We hugged like old times, and he stayed close by me, even whispering in his drunken state, uttering the words "the love of my life." We spent the rest of the night side by side, even traveling to another bar as a unit, our friends way ahead of us. At the second bar, we lost each other. He texted me later to make sure I had a ride home, then again when it hit 3 AM in a fashion that many would associate with "on-call" girls. The next week, sitting in my car before walking into school, I texted him. Very casual, very simple. Let him know that, even in my sober state, I had forgiven our past and was willing to have him as a character in my story. One of the good guys. He responded the next day with a phony apology of excuses trying to mask his insincerity with what he thought were kind words. Girls can see past that, though, when they let themselves. I did this time. And it was then that I gave up and let go of the one person who's held my attention the longest.
We hold onto things in life: words, images, lessons, places, people. We hold on sometimes without realizing that our holding on is actually just holding us back. I always feared that I would lose the only person I cared that much for, without realizing that unrequited love is pretty easy to top. Other things, I am glad to have held onto for so long. The words of my professor, the memories of playing with my sisters in our magical "forest," and the love of language and words that fell into my lap so young. I have learned not to punish myself for holding onto some things that I shouldn't have - as long as I have learned something, anything at all, I accept it and move forward.
Much of my writing a few years ago was about the one thing that had me hypnotized: the boy from second grade. But now my writing is intertwined with all of the snippets that my hands are holding - the words and stories and pictures of my past, present, and hopeful future. Beautiful things. Things that aren't toxic. Things that heal me and bring me to life. Things worth writing about. And maybe, if I'm lucky, also worth reading about.
Until next time,