We can not walk backwards in time; life is inherently a series of small steps forward and with each step forward, we create memories, some good, some bad, many nondescript. But what so many of us miss is that it’s not the memories but what we do with them that define us. Why? Because no matter what the memory is, it becomes a permanent part of who we are and influences our next step. So embrace your memories because the future is not written, but it is a road of endless possibilities; it’s up to you to seize them.
Last night I saw you standing on the train platform across from me. You were dressed in that white blouse I loved seeing you in. Your head was buried in your phone, your fingers busily typing, likely a worktext because you were always reading or sending a worktext. And in that work mode, you didn’t see me just like when we were together; I could never really compete with the job. You were driven, and you approached your work with a laser-like focus determined to be the best. That passion for succeeding at all costs played a part in us become distant. Ironically, it was that very same drive and desire to succeed that drew me to you in the first place. You looked up for a second but not in my direction, and even though we were separated by two set of train tracks at that moment, I felt like I was standing inches from you, looking into your eyes. The same eyes that I thought used to light up only for me, the eyes I used to tell you gave you an unfair advantage, the eyes that captured my heart the first time they looked my way. It was crazy, and even I found it hard to believe that the mere sight of you, after all, we went through, the ugly way it ended, I could feel the way I did. They say you don’t know love until love is gone, and I guess that’s true. What I do know is that going our separate ways was the best for both of us, but you can’t simply turn off how you feel about someone you loved, even when you know you shouldn’t be with them. After all, whoever said life and love were fair. It’s not it complicated; it’s difficult, it’s heartbreaking. But it’s worth it if only for that feeling you get when you look into the eyes of that someone special, even if it’s only a memory.
There’s a chill in the air tonight, and my bed feels especially chilly because you’re not here with me. It’s true, I still think about you, and how we would cuddle on nights like this, talking and laughing. The look in your eyes warming me like a summer night. There was never anyone like you before, and while there have been others, there has never been anyone like you since. The others all had qualities that made them unique, and though I know I shouldn’t have, when I compared them to you, they could never quite measure up to you. Each kiss only reminded me of the kisses we shared. Each smile only made me long for yours that much more. I suppose the thought of you and what we had will always haunt me. My heart still belongs to you. If that is a good or bad thing, I don’t know, but I know it is true.
The final bows have been taken, the stage lights begin to dim, and the curtain comes down. It was just me alone in a quiet and empty room, and now with no need to pretend this mask I can remove.
The mask, my face to the world, hides my true feelings, my real emotions. Alone and without my mask, I can be who I am, if only just for a few fleeting seconds.
A single tear rolls down my face as I envision your smile, and while I know you’re not there, I still reach out for your hand to pull you close to me, to feel your touch, to look into your eyes and tell you that I love you one more time.
If only in my mind.
If only for these fleeting seconds.
I can hear them now, the crowd settling back in, and your hand begins to slip from mine. The stage lights flicker, and my mask is back in place; the curtain rises, the show must go on, and our seconds, well, our seconds were only fleeting, and now they are gone.
I looked across the train, and there you were, head down reading a book, an actual book, no iPad or kindle but a real book with actual pages. A little more mature, but you were just as beautiful as you were 25 years ago when I first saw you in that bodega. I wanted to walk over and say hello, but my feet wouldn’t move for some reason. Maybe I just wanted to remember you as you were, didn’t want to hear about a husband or children, just wanted to remember when it was just you and me. Sure, there have been others after you, some just passing through some who I thought I loved, but they say hindsight is 20/20, and in hindsight, there was never really anyone like you. We were young, maybe too young, we didn’t have much, we didn’t even talk the same language, but somehow, we made it work. Our love lasted only a few years, but true love has no clock, and it burned bright, but then, just like so many bright stars, it exploded into a supernova. With one last kiss, you looked at me and said, I love you, but we both know we can’t be together, and just like that, you were gone, never to be seen again, I thought. But there you were today, and while deep down I hope you found love, I know whoever it is they could never love you the way I did. After all, you will always be my first and one true love.
It’s been a minute, hasn’t it been, but there you were in my dreams again, tip-toeing into my subconscious when I thought I had forgotten all about you. I’m not going to lie; seeing you again brought a smile to my face, all the good memories we created together flooding my mind. It’s funny now to think there was a time that the thought of you and I, what we were, and how that is no more made me sad. But that time has passed, I’m so much stronger now. Aware now of all the love that had always been afforded me by so many. To finally understand that the love of the Lord is more vital than any love I could ever desire, to embrace myself, to love myself, so yes, now the memory of the happy times between us, and there were some damn good times, makes me smile for I accept now they were an essential part of the journey I’ve been on to be the person I am today. Goodbye, for now, it was nice seeing you again, and I hope you have found the happiness that you were a part of in me finding mine.
My childhood surroundings were a bit of a contradiction. After all I grew up in what was technically the South Bronx but I lived in a house on a block filled with private homes. At the height of the borough’s decay a time when Howard Cosell famously decried on national television that the Bronx was burning the City had the great ideal to use Eminent Domain to take over all the homes across the street from where we lived. The ideal was to build a school but then the city teetered on bankruptcy and the school became nothing more than a dream and in its place stood a block of houses once filled with vibrant happy middle class families now nothing more than empty shells ready to be burned. Nevertheless my home always felt different. It was as if it was a million miles away from the garbage filled lot that sprang up across the street where the beautiful homes once stood and my backyard was my refuge.
The backyard was a place where as a child growing up alone I could be anyone my mind could imagine. Many a game 7 of the NBA finals between the Celtics and Lakers were played on the basketball court with me alternating between being Magic and Bird. Bird always hit the game winning three, hey I’m a Celtics fan we all have our faults. Oscar Gamble and his cool lean over the plate batting stance would make numerous appearances. My wiffle ball bat would cut threw the air launching the tennis ball, Spaulding rubber balls had way to much bounce for this game, high off the apartment building wall next door. Yet another game winning home run for Reggie Jackson and the Yankees. McEnroe and Borg had their epic battles at Wimbledon recreated in my backyard, though try as I might I could never get it pass Borg. It was almost like he was a wall, oh wait he was. Yes I may have been by myself but it was good times nevertheless.
The other thing my backyard had that made it unique from most of the Bronx was that it wasn’t a concrete playground. There were rose bushes red, pink and white. An apple tree and of course the centerpiece a majestic cherry tree. One year the cherry tree didn’t bloom, it had died and we had to cut it down. I never knew why it didn’t bloom that spring I just knew those sweet tasting cherries that were a part of every summer would be no more. Then one spring morning my mother said to me get up and come outside we’re going to plant a new cherry tree. Now I had never planted anything but I jumped at the thought of a new cherry tree. My mom told me where to dig the hole and we carefully took the small skinny cherry tree that she had brought out of its pot and transplanted it into the ground. Not nearly what the old tree was I said to my mom. She smiled at me, as only she could, and said give it time one day it will be. By the time I was in my 20s I would come to the family house each spring and smile as the little tree was now a big beautiful tree alive with hundreds of cherry blossoms. By summer the blossoms had become cherries and they always tasted sweeter than the ones in the store. Now that may have been my imagination making them seem sweeter than they were but hey the backyard was always the place for my imagination any way. Every time I looked at the cherry tree I would flash back to that day I planted it with my mom and smile. Give it time one day it will be she said and you know what she was right because today our cherry tree was.
When she passed away there wasn’t much I had to remember her by, a picture here a picture there but there would always be our cherry tree. But now I’m told, ironically on Mother’s Day weekend, that when the wind blows it sways just a bit to much. That people worry it may topple. That it has to go. Now I have never been one to let anyone in when it comes to my innermost feelings, which may explain why tears flow out of nowhere sometimes. But that’s a story for another time or the down payment on a European vacation for a lucky therapist. So to this day no one knows how much that tree really means to me. It was after all our tree, moms and me, and I didn’t feel to need to share that with anyone else. But you know what they say time moves on, people and things come and go and our little cherry tree that given time became a majestic cherry tree is no different. Lucky for me the backyard is a place where I could be anyone my mind could imagine so when I look at the place the cherry tree used to stand i’ll just imagine myself as that little boy planting a cherry tree with his mom. It might not seem the same at first but I’ll give it time and it will be.
The pain isn’t so much from knowing that they’re gone but rather in knowing you can’t stop thinking about someone who long since stop thinking about you.