We Do Not Remember Days, We Remember Moments. The proverb, conveniently printed onto a square white magnet with the words in black ink, is stuck to the side of my refrigerator. The quote's author is unknown, so I can't attribute the poignancy of those words to any particular person. They sound so simple, yet their truth speaks volumes. In fact, if I had to summarize my marriage and its demise, I couldn't tell you about the first month we separated. I couldn't tell you about how the days dragged out when we decided to live apart, or why I cheated, or he left the country. I couldn't even fully explain why we chose to move abroad, or how I passed the time in our first year together when I wasn't working. I can't really write about those things, because I can't fully remember them. It's much easier to tell the story of what I do remember very clearly.
Remembering a Life, and a Love
I remember arriving late one night to my ex's grandparent's house in Maine, and how the cold air of early October shocked my body when I stepped out of our rental car. The porch light was on, illuminating the flaking white paint on the old wooden farmhouse. Days later, I saw the most brilliant golden afternoon light on a field of barley, and accidentally clasped a small fuzzy bumble bee between my fingers from a plucked sprig of heather. The four of us; my husband, myself, and his grandparents, made a film of ourselves playing pinochle at a round sturdy table with a green cloth stained with wine. Some years later, when our grandfather died while we lived outside Paris, I recall my ex-husband's tears and the soft yellow pillow they spilled onto. I also remember a single moment in the garden behind that house, his blue eyes darting gleefully over a timely stroke of a badminton racquet. A dragonfly buzzed past my face and in the excitement I had lost sight of the shuttlecock, losing the round. Afterward, we had walked over to inspect our modest vegetable garden, and I saw as he plucked some weeds a deep furrow in his left brow that I had never noticed before.
Three years earlier, I have a memory of the airport in Iceland, where we spent a night's layover awaiting the flight that would take us to France. Exhausted, I slept with my head on his knee, and still can see the plastic orange of the chair and the long windows that framed the faint glow of the midnight sun in Reykjavik. I closed my heavy eyelids and saw the pile of our Brooklyn belongings thousands of miles away inside their dark storage compartment, but no longer felt the weight of them. Once, in our old Italian neighborhood, I had laughed at him walking down our street to a Saturday Night Fever inspired dance. I can still see him at twenty-five, blowing me a kiss from the blue carpeted stairs in our old brownstone's foyer. How quickly time passes, and yet how slowly.
More recently, on an ordinary Monday night, I remember his wide blue eyes looking anxiously up from the staircase as he descended from my apartment where we had shared a simple and impromptu dinner together. He had stopped by on the premise of borrowing some random household item. But really, I knew it was because he felt ill, and alone - frightened, even. In that moment of watching him go, knowing he would go home and lie down in his bed alone, and I would in turn go to mine, I felt like the universe had come untethered. I knew instantly that nothing makes any sense, and there is no clear storyline to follow of how we live our lives or why we do and say the things we do.
Learning to Savor the Moments
I sincerely wish in the time following my separation from my husband that I had a map of the history of our life together. Then I could follow a clear line to show me how we had spent our days. I would take a chronological tour of our marriage and pinpoint the precise dates where we had made our gravest mistakes. Then, I would rewind the clock and begin again. I would live all the glorious days over, and know that there was plenty of time ahead of us to sort out our darkest troubles. But there is no such map, and time traveling isn't one of my gifts. Instead, I will have to keep living for the days and minutes that keep rushing by. I have to hold onto the moments, with or without that person I loved: the view of three white doves on the roof outside when I open my eyes in the morning, the smell of a violet-colored Burgundy wine, the brief locking of eyes with a darting deer. I know I'll remember these moments, even as the days slip away.
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