In recent months, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with a few people who once played major roles in my long ago life. My ninth grade English teacher whom I adored, an employer who gave me my first taste of the world of radio as a young intern and lastly, a lover with an accent who left my heart in a puddle of tears. By the time he crossed back over the pond, it had become an ocean with depths I could not yet fathom.
Without knowing then, each made a profound impact on who I became, how I exercised my mind, where I planted my future or uprooted my past, as well as what I left behind in the wake zone that would eventually become me. In retrospect, I was star struck in the presence of these individuals who for one reason or another, took me under their wings before I waited in anyone else’s or had my own with which to fly. I saw and perceived them through an amateur’s eyes, naïve to the concept that darkrooms exist for us all, so we can fully develop and learn to appreciate the warmth of the light when it eventually graces our shoulders.
As I waded into young adulthood, I carried memories of these people like life preservers. Buoyed by their support of or belief in me, my expectations were more defined by those of others than any delusions of grandeur I had yet to consider in the realm of possibility for myself. It didn’t take me long to realize that one could sink or swim in a bathtub as easily as he or she could in the sea. I scared myself to life by deciding to dive right into it and never imagined myself looking back (or ahead) for the safety of a shoreline or the anchor of anything that could hold me down completely.
By the time life had decided to figure me out and not vice versa, I understood that a young broken heart is the training bra for real heartache, that time only stands still during the most painful or challenging moments and that people from your past leave invisible fingerprints and write stories on your soul with indelible ink. We’re just too busy trying to clean up meaningless stains of no permanence to notice them until they magically reappear in our lives.
The era of my life that these people represent can be measured by promises of lifelong friendship in yearbooks, black and white snapshots or the year where MTV was a secret waiting to be told. It was an era of beach vacations and a version of New York City from a visitor’s perspective instead of that of a taxi-hailing resident in a suit with shoulder pads (that were big enough to play corporate football in) at a time where the field was still mostly comprised of boys.
Thirty years on, my life is colliding with people who have fast-forwarded their way through decades of their own trajectory. They each represent something, some aspect of who I was or am in this cosmos. And we are picking up the pieces of ourselves where we left off, like luggage on a carousel that was once considered lost or missing. It was never forgotten.
Instead of starting from the beginning, we are back in the middle. I am suddenly looking at everything backwards, witnessing myself through the eyes of people who see me as the same person I once was. The more they do, the more I realize I am not.
It is their eyes playing tricks on me.
They have reentered my world and life as I now know and live it, still viewing me through the lens of history without so much as Facebook being the responsible medium for conducting this séance with my past. But because they still view me as such, I find myself at once 14, 19 and 23 years old, now playing in a nearly 51 year-old body.
A lot of life has been lived since those months and moments that were frozen in time. The memories are the icebreakers that allow us to seamlessly gloss over the past and gracefully glide into the present. We skate from memory even if we now live our lives in very different worlds. I'm seeingmyself in reverse. And I realize that as it sometimes does in love, the ice can cut both ways.
"Points on a Globe"
24 x 18 Mixed Media
© Patricia A. Smith