Occasionally I experience a moment where everything is perfect at that particular place and time, so perfect that I can feel the happiness coursing through my body like an extra heartbeat. And yet, at the same time I am acknowledging the moment and its beauty, I am thinking This will not last. The enduring impermanence of things never stops running through my head. And I am aware of this impermanence far more when I am faced with an instant or an hour or a day of unbearable bliss—unbearable because just when I am faced with the happiest moments of my life, I am so much more aware of their transience.
Even in the happiness I have with you there is an undercurrent of sadness, because none of this will last; nothing we are experiencing or thinking or feeling now will last. You will leave me or I will leave you or time and circumstances will force us apart…and even if, miraculously, they do not, and we end up marrying and having babies and living happily ever after—we will die. And you will die long before I do. For years, probably, I will be alone.
Even when we are at our closest, lying skin to skin in the dead of night, I am aware of that cramping deep down in my chest. The ghost of a loss that hasn’t happened yet. Every time I am with you and feel that blazing happiness surge through me, there is always that same old sadness underneath. So I try to memorize the way everything feels with you. How your hands are always so much warmer than mine, or how you sometimes mutter in Spanish in your sleep, or how the light looks as it slants in through the window at dawn. I lie awake and try to memorize the exact shape of the window in the bedroom you will never occupy again after April. Already I know this apartment will not last. After the spring neither of us will ever occupy it again.
In the future, what else do I have to lose? Not everything comes with a warning—Two months from now I will be gone. It is entirely possible that the last time I am with you, I will be totally unaware of it even being the last time.
So I try to memorize this, all of this. Maybe if I can nail it down I will never truly lose you, never truly lose these moments of happiness scattered throughout our lives. But how does one memorize a person? How is it possible to store up the feeling that they give you just by being there? It’s like trying to photograph a movement, one that you can barely even catch with the naked eye. It comes out blurry and distorted, a laughable imitation of how it was when it happened. Stiff. Pathetic. Nothing compared to the real thing.
If I ever had to live with my last impression of you, it would be similar: a crumbling picture of something that was once full of color and sound and feeling. No sense in trying to flatten what was three-dimensional. No sense in trying to photograph a life. It’s like attempting to bottle a scent that floats past you and is gone the next second—and I’m left chasing a patch of empty air with an open jar, trying to close the lid on something that’s already long gone.