In physics, a “moment” is a mixture of distance and a physical quantity. There are moments of points and moments of forces. I learned briefly about calculating moments in my Calculus II class; you need them to find the balance point of an object.
I can’t help but think that real life moments aren’t that different.
Following the best concert of my life, I lie half asleep in my best friend’s Toyota. He drives with his left hand on the steering wheel, his right on the gear shift, and his shoulder draped in my hair. A year and a half of friendship and little flirtations grants us a strange level of comfort; we do not think twice about leaning on each other during the hour long drive home. I all but tangle my arms around his bicep, and while we’re speeding down the freeway fast enough to kill us both, I must admit that I feel safe.
At one point in particular, static begins to overtake radio waves of rhythm guitar, our cellphones start searching, and we truly do feel unreachable. I do not know why I pick now. I should wait until I’m in the right state of mind, but we’ve just shared one of the best days of my life. I’m riding a semi-sweet high of streetlights and cotton blends when I finally speak up.
“Yes?” He turns down the radio static, and now it’s just a hum.
“You want to know a secret?”
I consider falling back asleep and avoiding this quiet confrontation.
“No, you didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You wanna know the secret?”
“I like you, Kain. I like you a lot.”
And it’s there. I think maybe the air vents become vacuums because everything is silent. A change happens, but not a dramatic one.
“…I love you a lot, Lydia.”
I nod gently before curling back into him. In this moment, our physical quantity is represented by the two bodies in his car. Our distance is of the emotional variety; there is an undeniable ellipsis of separation between my statement and his nonreciprocal response, and no amount of math could erase it.
After a minute–or maybe an eternity–he asks, “Do you ever speak in hypotheticals?”
By now, I have forced myself away from him and am sitting slouched in the passenger seat, awake but not fully so.
“Can we do that for a second?”
He understands more physics than I do, and so maybe he knows something about moments that I don’t.
Perhaps these hypotheticals are the best way he knows how to make such complicated concepts comprehensible to someone as simple-minded as myself, feeding me just hollowed shells of situations: the hypothetical fine line he’s walking, bordering a hypothetical relationship; the hypothetical filters through which he strains his speech, catching hypothetical problem phrases.
“I do not want to say too much. But, hypothetically, you are not alone.”
He’s in a difficult position. I do not ask him any further questions.
I now know that the moments you calculate in math and physics are not synonymous with the ones you live. In real life, moments are not so perfectly pinpointed. Still, we deal with the pieces we’ve got: the “close to” kisses, the muffled music. Sometimes moments give you the balance and the clarity you’re looking for, but tonight, this ballad we’re living in is just beautiful enough that we stop ourselves from touching the dial, and we listen silently through the static.