There are lots of moments in my 25 years of life that I have snapped a mental picture of, but most of them are the worst moments. In receiving bad news or when tragic events take place, I have learned to stop and take note of what is going on around me and to notice the things that will surround this moment as I look back. I remember where I was sitting in my 9th grade English class watching the Twin Towers fall on September 11th, 2001. I remember what I was wearing when I received the phone call that my best friend Jenna had died of an overdose. I remember the cup I was drinking out right before I had to say goodbye to my dying grandfather from miles away over the phone.
Usually, in moments that I will cherish in the days, weeks, months, years to come, I am so wrapped up in the moment that I forget to notice what else is going on. I remember watching a best friend walk down the aisle, arm-in-arm with her proud big brother, and crying tears of happiness and listening to her beautiful vows to her husband. But I don’t remember what song we sang or whether we got drinks before or after the pictures. I have forgotten the butterflies and nervousness of my first date. I don’t remember the moment I received my admission letter for college. And maybe those moments will always be ones that fade away because I was so overwhelmed with the emotions of the moment that I was single-mindedly focused.
One moment is there, though, pushing its way through my thoughts in this discussion, elbowing the others out of the way and demanding attention for the sharpness of its memory, the awareness of that moment. The moments leading up to that memory – waking in the early dark, packing up the car and driving before the sun has reached it tendrils of light into the sky. Flying quickly along the highway amid the sparse LA traffic with lights on and radio off. Exchanging few words and comments neither of us will remember. Stopping for greasy diner breakfast and the coffee I know will heighten senses I wish I didn’t have this day. Exchanging the tear-soaked letters we promised, reading them out loud in a red booth, sitting next to each other, stopping to sniffle and sob between words of apology and regret. The last seconds in the car, searching for the terminal along the line of departing travelers, grabbing suitcases and setting them on the curb, turning toward one another with the uncertainty of a week of deception and brokenness behind our expressions. The immediate descent of my heart within my chest as the realization sets in. This moment is the end of all of this. I know it in my mind and I feel it in my heart. We exchange not words, but thoughts. Love, or maybe regret, finds its expression in the desperation of a last embrace, gripped tightly by the profound remorse of this moment. It would be the last time I looked into those eyes and knew exactly what I would I would find there, the same anchor that I had gripped for the last 293,760 minutes from the first time I felt it. And then it was goodbye. Severance that would never be repaired, and the moment was gone.