Swallowing it down

And then that song starts playing in the coffee shop. The slogging tasks of work ahead suddenly fade. The light streaming in the windows reminds me of the artist’s name; “Atmosphere.” I’m transported back to those warm fuzzy days. The days where there was me and you and the beginnings of feelings we hadn’t yet charted. Amazing how a song can do that, can take you out of your body and long to remember the edges of a memory that feels so far away.

To get a grasp on the whole thing, I just need the edge,” I tell myself.

The edge of a song, of a lifetime ago, of a place we once inhabited. The feelings rush out as quickly as they came in, leaving only white noise and emptiness in their place. A place that can only be filled by acceptance and a maturity to embrace what is. My shortcomings, my loss of those now-precious memories, my inability to hold the truth in my hand. I can only feel for it like a blind chicken in the dark. I know where I left it, but I can’t quite locate the exact place. That’s how it is. And that’s where we’ll leave it. A love always lingering, ever-so-subtly, deep below the surface. A first-love never to be requited again. Fixed in place by a world spinning forward.

And then, “None shall pass” emerges from the relative quiet, a song drenched in the tenderest of feelings. It’s as if this coffee shop is dangling those mixed cds you once made for me in front of my face with the teasing spirit of those summer breezes. Sweet summers spent driving to nowhere. Smoking weed in your old RAV4, feeling bad, feeling good. Oh so good to be in the company of the free, of a life unattached and yet fully bonded. None shall pass. It’s something like an anthem, a poignant symbol of life’s failures. Nothing gets through. Everything stays, untouchable in its place in time. The ash stings at my eyes, the crumbled remains that I want to revive and yet can only stare at as they rest on the ground, unaware of my inner struggle. I stare, looking down at my feet. I wish I could make my heart stop fluttering so that I can return to my work.



Willing kisses. Willing my current partner to understand the urgency I feel inside. The urgency for him to fully see what’s in there, to understand every contorted feeling, every fleeting desire, all of it.

How ridiculous I find my own urgency. The urgency to feel a certain way again, to manufacture an irreplaceable feeling. To want for the impossible and punish someone for things they have no part in. How I wish I could strip away the patina of my memories. To paint the picture in full color, not this deceptive, sanded down version. It feels close enough to touch, but in reality, its miles away, submerged below depths of cloudy water. But what if I could strip it down smooth, down to the bare bones, like paint off a hardwood floor? Would I feel numb then? Would I care? Would the nostalgia disappear?

How I wish I could stop sounding like a jaded old lady. And yet, how I want him to see the spirit of my days past. How I need him to spark something that can never be lit. How I push him to be the bearer of unfulfillable tasks. I pick on his words, on the minutest of details —a vulture on a dead carcass. There’s nothing there, but if there is, I’m sure as hell gonna find it. “We’re doomed,” he always says. And how I want it to be in a good way.

I suspect this is how people become grumpy and old, soured by life itself. Fueled by self-hatred, indecision and splintered hearts. Selfish because we want it all. We want the thrill of the new, the nostalgia of the old and the promise of the future, all in one neat little pill.

But that’s a pill no one can swallow. Laced with poison, NOT FOR THE LIVING is clearly stamped in bold letters on its smooth, shiny surface. Because how can it be? Life is about accepting these truths that don’t sit together nicely. The truths that like to mingle about in our stomach until they form a pit, a porous rock pocked with networks of grooves and shallow holes. Holes where those memories tend to hide out and linger with the hopes of one day surfacing for air when their owner finally lets up and allows what’s inside to ebb and flow as it wishes. The natural rhythm that can be restored when focus is turned elsewhere.

When I finally tire of searching within for answers and memories and how was I thens and direct my eyes out towards the vast expanse before me.


*Photo of the swimming woman used in the first collage is by Folkert Gorter.

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