I used to have a friend in college who would get so discouraged about her life, about her relationship, that she would break down in tears nearly every day. She didn’t know if she could go on. She was lost. She was beaten. She was way down at the bottom of her spirit and she wasn’t sure how she was going to rise to the top again. We spent so many afternoons after class or work on the balcony of her third floor apartment, sitting at her white, plastic table in her white, plastic chairs and smoking cigarette after cigarette until the afternoon turned to twilight and beyond.
We never solved anything but we always felt better afterwards.
The truth of it is, I was just as lost as her. Just as down-trodden. We were a pair, the two of us. Debbie-Downer twins, that was us. Still, we managed to laugh. Somehow. Someway. I don’t remember how we did it or what we found to laugh about, only that we did. A lot.
They were sad times. But they were good times.
I used to have this thing that I would tell her and it went something like this:
“M. Life is shit. It’s a fact. There’s going to be more and more shit before it’s all said and done and the only thing we can do about it is find little, tiny pockets of happiness here and there and sew them into our hearts with little, tiny zippers so that we can open them from time to time and let the happiness out when the shit gets really deep.”
I had forgotten all about that. I had forgotten I used to say that to her until I came across a note from her in which she reminded me of exactly that.
It seems unreal to me now, lost as I am, as I always have been, that I would have said something like that to someone else. I am almost ashamed of it. Who was I to be telling her something like that?
Anyway, after I read that note, I started thinking about what I meant by little, tiny pockets of happiness. What were they? What were mine? Could I remember them all if I tried? I wasn’t sure but I thought I would at least sit down and get as many out as I could. Whatever came to my head first, that’s what I would write.
And so that’s what I did.
And that’s what I present to you below. Unedited. And in no particular order. Just thoughts as they came, trying to capture them in words as fast as I could because once I got started, another one was waiting to get out. I’m sure I haven’t done justice to many of them, maybe even all of them. I don’t know. But I’ve found it doesn’t matter. The memories are inside me and that’s all that really matters. They live in me and there they will stay long after this blog is gone, long after my computer has died, long after the word document they were written upon has been deleted.
They live in me until I live no more.
Here’s to you, M.
Dancing with my mother to Paul Simon’s greatest hits when she came to visit me in college. We were drunk, giddy with wine, and dancing all over the house, one behind the other – through the living room, into the bedroom, out through the kitchen, and back to the living room. A fit of giggles. Collapsing on the couch. Refilling our wine glasses. Changing CD’s and dancing some more.
Understanding, many months and many days after the fact, that no fight was too big to keep me from my sister. I don’t know exactly when we forgave each other, the exact date. I doubt we ever said the actual words of forgiveness that are so often meaningless anyway. I only remember being in my mother’s old house on Barnes Street when we finally spoke on the phone. Cautiously at first, and then as if nothing had ever happened. That’s one of my most treasured pockets of happiness.
My brother’s embrace the day I returned home from Atlanta. Out of a job. Out of a five year relationship. Depressed. Not wanting to be here at all. He hugged me to him so tightly and held on longer than he ever had before or since, whispering in my ear, “I’m so glad you’re home, Steph.”
Saying goodbye to Fischer before he left for Hawaii. Standing outside with him in the cold. Looking at his beautiful, sweet, never-could-never-will-hurt-a-living-soul face. His twinkling eyes looking back into mine. The lines at the corner of his mouth turning up into a smile. His arms around my waist. My arms around his shoulders. The warmth of his body. His body sturdy. Strong. Knowing I was kissing him for the last time ever in this lifetime. Happy just for the chance to know him. Happy for the few short years he graced my life.
Brenda’s gifts to me the day I left my job for good. Three boxes of tampons and a bag full of lotion in every scent imaginable. How we fell down in fits of laughter when I opened it. Beautiful in its simplicity, this gift from her to me. Beautiful in its significance. A secret between friends. Really knowing someone. Really understanding someone.
My brother-in-law saying over the weekend: “We don’t love people because of what they do, Steph. We don’t love them for their jobs. We love them because of who they are.” Thank you, brother. I needed that.
The old man at my table who only wanted a steak, rare, and a glass of red wine. Watching as he cut into it. Sending it back again and again, while all the while, he never complained. I believe he would have taken it the first time just the way it was. He ended up eating it medium and asking me to sit down with him and share a glass of wine. I did. I was drawn to him in some way I couldn’t define or explain. He was kind. He was old. He was not long for this world. I don’t remember his name but I remember the feel of his arms around my shoulder as he hugged me on his way out the door. I watched him leave, walk down the street, until I couldn’t see him anymore. I remember thinking to myself that he was an angel but I didn’t know why I thought that. I cried feverishly after he was gone.
Listening to Concrete Blonde sing Joey (the acoustic version) with my friend, Kenneth, over and over again in his car. Belting out the lyrics at the top of our lungs and not caring how horrible our voices were. Being out of breath at the end of the song and pressing rewind to play it again. To sing it again. To feel every single lyric, every single note………
I could write for days and still the memories would come. I know this.
That’s all life is. A series of moments, of memories. Little, tiny pockets of happiness in the midst of pain, struggle, and despair. These pockets are the only things that keep us here, the only things that allow us to wake up and face another day.
The hope that we will make another memory.
The hope that we will see something beautiful.
The hope that we will feel something sublime.
The hope that we will learn something unknown.
The hope that we will forge a connection.
And knowing, without a doubt, that “sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” (Scarlet Begonias – Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia). Knowing, that in our darkest hour, in the darkest places, there is kindness, there is beauty.