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I had never been to Seattle before.
In fact, the only time I was ever close to the West Coast was in 1993, after I’d had my heart broken—for the first time.
Of course as a school kid, I suffered the sting of rejection and all the other common maladies that go along with the torturous occupation of growing up, but this was markedly different in many ways.
Melody (not her real name) was, at least as far I was concerned, the most exquisite woman I had ever laid my eyes on in all of my 19 years—the impossible dream. To realize that my desire was finally being reciprocated after months of emotionally taxing courtship was utterly indescribable. And so, obviously, were the feelings I was faced with when it all finally ended after a year and a half. During finals week of my senior year, no less.
I felt those emotions in such a way that they transcended anything that could be seen or touched or tasted—they dug their way into a sensory port in my mind that I still have trouble articulating today.
So when my friends mentioned they bought a Westphalia Volkswagen van to go trek out to Tempe right after graduation, I was in. I was truly convinced that, in some way, I was dying and if I had to spend the summer with my parents on Long Island, that would likely be the coupe de grace—the final blow.
As is the case with an experience like this, lodged so firmly in the past, there are only certain parts that I still have clear memories of. Many of these memories came back as my plane made it into Washington state at the end of May and I could see the wondrous tip of Mt. Rainier blasting through the clouds. I flew over—during a time of a pandemic and chaos—to pick up the love of my life, throw all of her belongings in a U-haul and, once again, drive cross country.
This time, though, I’d be heading east. It was appropriate that I was now driving in the opposite direction as I did in the 90s. The entire premise of this was opposite. This was for the start of a new love and not the end of a failed love. This was a celebration of life, replete with joy and laughter and love-making—not a slog out to the middle of nowhere to escape the vision of my dream girl making out with another guy.
However, as is the case with many highly sensitive people, the body and the mind refuse to allow you to forget the pain of the past—especially when so many sensory cues are the same. It shared the same theme of ripping me from my routine on a moment’s notice, it was exactly the same time of year, and it was attached to a romantic partner.
I did not realize how much that sad time of my life was still hanging on, until just last night as I lay in bed with my lover.
It brought me back to that trip, when we were at a strange campground in New Mexico. We smoked a little weed (we just graduated college, after all) and instead of giggling and acting the fool with my travelling companions, I stared up at the starry night sky. I thought about all of the beauty Melody and I had shared. All the love that I’d spent my childhood dreaming about that had come to be.
I remembered the gifts that the universe bestowed upon me that exceeded even my most audacious hopes, and I admonished myself about how I so carelessly allowed them all to come and go with as much concern as one might have for a running faucet—with the temerity to assume that it would just run on forever.
I remembered vowing to myself that if I ever found this level of bliss again, I would inhabit each moment with the reverence that it deserved. These things, I realized that night, were fragile and precious and could end at any given moment.
It was so obvious to me now: I was entrenched so deeply in that particular memory because I was given this second chance, finally.
Here I was, in exactly the same circumstances, with a love I never believed I would feel again, and something inside of me was crying out for me to not make the same mistakes. Enjoy each moment as a sacred thing, because these gifts are not infinite. They end, they fade, they get chewed up by the comings and goings of routine life and practical matters whose only duty is to vex us to a point where we can no longer feel into a love so deeply.
That is, unless we recognize it for what it is. And that’s the paradox. The only chance any of us ever have to preserve the most ethereal moments of our lives is to live inside them as they unfold. If we are outside the moment, it is almost as if they never really happened. We become the spectator in our lives.
And that night, as a young man in New Mexico, I realized there is really nothing sadder than that.