I’m scared about the next year. My mom has avoided the topic of the impending date of our separation when I turn 18 next year. I’ll be going further south to the University of Texas Pan American, and she and my father (and most likely my older brother) will become neighbors with Canada on Mackinac Island in Michigan. I’ve tried hugging her more and telling her how much I love her and expressing how proud I am of her success as an aesthetician, but I want to talk about goodbye.
Ever since I was 13 I began counting down the days to life on my own, making one scheme after another to get out quick. Some days because the fights were just that bad, and others because I was aching to try my hand at the dreams I had formulated while staring at those purple walls that I’m grateful I never had to paint over when we left.
You only go around once – that’s the line I’ve heard from toddlerhood onward, and only recently has it hit me head on what it means. You have choices to make every day, and once it’s gone, it can never be so again. My favorite philosopher and psychologist, William James, said that we never feel the exact same emotion twice. That’s because we feel different emotions for different reasons every time, so we can never feel the precise way we did the last time we felt it. In other words: you’ll only feel that brand of happiness once, you’ll only get kicked with that guilt in one swing.
I want to sit and talk with her a while about what inevitably will come to pass. A part of me is scared of when she does allow me, because now when she talks about her future, it’s no longer about dreams and ambitions and ending sentences with “One day I’ll get there.” Now, instead, they end with, “I may do that the rest of my life.” As though the day is so impending. But then, one cannot deny, it is. With my best friend’s wedding on the horizon, I’ll no longer have my Watson to rip the lenses off of my rose-colored glasses. When I’m at Pan-Am I will know no one, and be entirely alone for a companion who I can so entirely trust as I do with Heather, and the last thing I will do is call up my newly wed best friend in the wee small hours for one of my petty rants or paranoia episodes when things go bump in the night. No, I have to learn to always look reality in the face and consider all options and explanations, for once, learn to do such a thing alone.
At least I know I’ll only feel this brand of dread once, only get kicked with this regret in one swing.
It has been said before me, and so it will be said after. The reason stories of UFOs give us nightmares, goosebumps rise at the sound of invisible feet upon the floor, suspicion and fear arise when we think too long about the many monsters in the darkness, heck, why shaking hands give people with OCD a spike of terror, is because we do not understand. We fear the unknown. Where are the shoes that cause the echoing click? Where are the lights in the sky coming from? What could there possibly be in the darkness? Could this outstretched hand give me something deadly with a swift movement of greeting?
When we feel a dreading ache in our stomach, hearts and bones it’s that overprotective part of our mind sending signals that say very obviously “I don’t recognize this, I don’t understand this, therefore, I do not like this.” The past year I’ve come to see such an ache as a good thing: it tells us that we care about the outcome. But sometimes I feel this ache and overawareness of time and it’s passing make it difficult for me to enjoy the time I have left. Yesterday I suddenly asked my mom if she would like to go to Blueberries (a modern-styled frozen yogurt and boba tea place) if I paid for it. And as we sat and laughed I kept noticing lines on her face that I didn’t remember being there, I furrowed my brow in frustration that I didn’t perceive it earlier. Lines marking her cupids-bow upper lip and stretching from the sides of her nose and framing her mouth. Etchings near her eyes and on her forehead. When did my mother turn into a person? I wondered. A wise woman once said that there is a key point in life, where we stop seeing our parents as parents, and see them instead as people. My bubbly, Disneyloving, hardworking mother turned into a bubbly, Disneyloving, hardworking human being before my very eyes. And my heart broke a little.
Life is but a vapor, so says countless philosophers and the Bible itself. And what a beautiful vapor my mother is. I know I will wake up one day and she will be long gone, but, goodness, I can look into her eyes and hold onto her as long as I wish, it’s nothing but gripping falling sand in one’s fist. How can any human being properly love and cherish another in a way that stops time? I feel like this should exist. I feel like if I were to fight hard enough with nothing but my raw will that perhaps I can bend the cosmos in this way, that I might hold time in my hand and demand that it cease, and that it would. But the human will can only extend one’s reach so far, it can only do so much to hold the sun in one’s hand or the stars with one’s gaze. I can’t be the only one who has felt like this. Or perhaps William James would say I am. But then, what does he know? He’s dead. Where did his wisdom and ambition and raw will get him? All that is left of him is ink on a page. All that stands of Mr. James are quotes and requotes until sometimes words are said so often we don’t even care about what they mean anymore.
I wish that I could suspend the lives of the people I love for a while, but I know this would never be enough, it could never be enough. Because I am human, and so I fear the unknown of a world without them. But yet I still look into their eyes and hold them as tightly as I may, the sand continues to fall, the lines in the sand and the lines around her mouth are drawn by time, and nothing can be done to capture such vapors, what is done is done, what has passed has passed, and I am comforted only by the fact that I will only feel this brand of grief once, only get kicked with this fear in one swing.