They say you can’t time travel, that it moves only forward, but I figured it out when I turned 22. I was thinking of when I turned 21 and it was as though the previous 12 months had been a nightmarish alternate reality. I felt sure that I’d go to the kitchen just then and see my ex-girlfriend there beaming about some midnight snack she’d prepared for the both of us. We’d make our way to the couch, careful to be quiet, and steal kisses when we set our trays on the large chest that served as our coffee table. My life would spin on as it should.
There was a discrepancy and I found myself firmly in it. As if some Delorean had fucked up my past and it needed to be corrected. Then I could kiss her one more time. But it wasn’t Back to the Future. The Delorean was the prison of my mind where my emotions were distorted with the G-forces of quickly passing time, refusing to let go of what wasn’t there anymore. How long can you stretch a man over time, over heartbreak, before he pulls apart? Back then, I thought that at 12:23am on my 30th birthday I would be absentmindedly caressing my lips thinking of her embalmed kisses.
On my 21st birthday, she took me on her dad’s boat and I smoked a cigar in a pea coat that I had found for $30. She bought cheese and crackers and wine and grapes. We drank and listened to Sade and played cards. I can still hear her laughing at my awful French that I had only tried learning to impress her. She had a natural majesty that inspired me, for the first time in my life, to want to be better. That being a man may have something to it if only I did it right, i.e. with the same grace with which she had somehow become a woman.
After a glass or two of whiskey, when I closed my eyes in that dark room on my 22nd birthday, I could feel her laying next to me. She was sound asleep as the boat rocked. Outside you could hear the water but in my heart you could hear the ocean.
That was then, of course, which is an impressive thing for me to say because it’s only now that I’ve found my way into the present. There’s a sort of Stockholm syndrome that happens with terrible mistakes. They hold you hostage and you begin to glorify your demons as gory gods of your soul, when, at the end of the day, at the end of your life, you just fucked up. A life without error can’t be said to exist, but a life lived under the specter of past error is hardly lived, is it? You can’t live your life stuck in amber and it’s taken me so long to appreciate that. Eventually, I grew tired of destroying myself everyday over something that had happened so long ago. It’s become time to give my past to my past so that my future might have a chance.
Before, my only thought was, “I have done so many terrible things,” and now, after a long trip at a steady 88mph, I’ve started thinking, “I have so many good things left to do.