Presence

I took a class on film directors this past summer.  I’d needed an elective, and it was one of those classes you take because it’s from the right department and offered at the right time.  The featured directors were Spike Lee and Oliver Stone.  You can imagine how much I enjoyed the class.

The class was full of all these interesting students, people whose interests were far removed from mine. There was the little guy, Lebanese kid, I used to talk with when we went on breaks.  It was a loooong class.  Well, he just won an award for filmmaking – the Travolta award.  I was so happy for him.  And someday, I’ll get to say I knew him when…

I went to my very last session of the writing workshop tonight.   I got there early, so one of the girls in the workshop, this beautiful and very talented poet, and I walked over to the student union so she could get some coffee and I could buy a Payday bar, which is hands down my favorite candy bar. (It’s salty and sweet!  What’s not to love?)

When we got back to the room, she’d picked up an extra copy of the student paper and she gave it to me. I started talking with the other students about my film class who won the award and looked down at the front page of paper to see the picture of another one of my classmates from the film school.  He’d sat behind me and hadn’t said too much, but I remember him because he was a cutie. Well, he died in a motorcycle accident last week.  He was 23.

It’s strange how fleeting it is.  Life. Happiness.  Love.

And it got me thinking about how much I focus on the future.  I’ve always done that.  Can’t help it.  I live there. But all this focus on the future is often to the detriment of the present and with disregard to the past.

When I say disregard to the past, what I mean is that I forget.  I move on.  I put it behind me, and I’ve always looked at that as sort of a gift.  I let people go.  I let go of memories.  I block out what I didn’t like, but instead of focusing on what I did like, I block that out, too.  I don’t even hold on to that.  I’m starting to think it’s a weakness.  I know it’s a defense mechanism.

And it hurts the people who care about me.

“How could you forget?” An old boyfriend will ask.  “I remember everything about that day.  I remember what you were wearing.  I remember what perfume you wore.”

But I don’t remember.

“I told you about this before, right?  About how my father would treat me when I didn’t do what was expected of me.”  A friend will ask.

And she may have.  I’m sure she must have.  But I don’t remember.

“Remember that Thanksgiving when we were in the kitchen getting the dishes ready to go out.  It was just the two of us in there. Everyone else was out in the living room,” Josh will remind me.  “And I was sprinkling paprika on the vegetables, but it had mealy bugs in it. We just took off the top layer and served it anyway.  Then you and I didn’t eat any.”

Sounds familiar, but…

It must have meant something to me.  I probably laughed or cried at the time.  I just let things go.

I was emailing back-and-forth with Dan during a particularly emotional time a little while back, and I asked him what had happened with us.  Why hadn’t it worked out?  He told me it was timing.  Just bad timing.  Of course he busted my chops for two paragraphs before he got to that…

He’s happily married now, and I’m happy for him, glad to have him as a friend.  I have absolutely no residual feelings in that way for him at all.  He makes me laugh and smile, and I’m thrilled that someone I loved – really, really loved – is still in my life even though things didn’t work out.

And when it happened, when we ended things, it broke my heart.  I remember scorching, searing pain, sleeping in his old t-shirt, waking up crying, walking around with sunglasses on so no one would be able to tell I’d been crying, and a dull ache that didn’t fade for years.  It was awful.  But now…  Eh.

And this is crazy, but whenever I catch myself getting down about a guy, I remind myself of the guys who have loved me.  And I think, “By letting this guy get me down, I’m dishonoring them.  If I wasn’t better than this guy thinks I am, those guys wouldn’t have been in my life.”  And it’s true.  Neurotic and crazy, but true.

After she read my last short story, my professor told me she liked the title.  It’s “What I Remember.”  She said it was good, because these were things I remembered because I needed to remember them.

I just wish I could remember more of what mattered to others and less of what matters to me.  That would be better, wouldn’t it?

Because life is short. Happiness is fleeting.  And love,.. Well, love is rare and wonderful, and it deserves to be remembered, even when it’s short and fleeting, too.

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