Forever On A Blurry Road: Memories of A Past Relationship
He drove a red Jeep Cherokee Laredo.
It’s a noticeable car, and for years, I noticed them everywhere. I would be hit with a rush of bittersweet memories, thinking all at once of every time he drove up to my house and I ran out to meet him, every time we drove together. That time he drove a whole group of us around late at night and we got a kick out of pausing in the middle of the road that runs along the border of our states, half in his home state and half in mine.
Memories are kind of like that border road, only blurrier, more ephemeral. They connect the past and the present, but their lines are not so well defined. Sometimes, I can’t quite catch them.
They used to be everywhere, even more common than red Jeeps. A turn of phrase would remind me of the first letter he wrote to me and the gift and question that accompanied it. A casual mention of a particular hotel lobby (a typical location for chaste Orthodox Jewish dates) would stir up memories of That Conversation we had there. A song on the radio – most songs on the radio – would awaken some association: there’s the song that came out when we were in high school and always made me think of him; the list of songs in a magazine that once made us laugh as we imagined how each related to us; the song he played for me that time he called me when he wasn’t supposed to, one of those times we couldn’t seem to move on from each other.
Until we finally did, taking our lives in the different directions we each needed. We still had connections through friends… and then one day, suddenly, we became farther apart than I could fathom, more permanently than I can comprehend even now.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were never meant to be together, but our story shouldn’t have ended so completely. We were meant to have occasionally intersecting lives in this universe. We were meant to bump into each other at the most random moments and places – or maybe not so random. He should have been at our friends’ son’s bar mitzvah like I was, where we would have caught each other up on our different paths in life. We were meant to introduce each other to our spouses and kids. To share a smile at the weirdness of life that we always thought we saw in ways no one else, not even other angsty teenagers, could ever have understood. And then we would have gone back to our separate lives, happy with where we were and who we were with and secure in the memories that would always be part of us.
Instead, he’s gone. Those memories are part of me, but now I am alone with them. And the memories are slipping.
I remember that time I accidentally missed a school activity because we couldn’t tear ourselves off the phone. I remember how I watched the other girls running excitedly down the dormitory stairs to see one of our favorite performers, fully intending to go join them, and how I laughed as they started returning and I realized we’d been talking for four hours and I had missed it. Only, I can’t remember a single thing we talked about.
I can’t even remember exactly what That Conversation was about. I just remember it was a Thing, because I’ve remembered it so long.
Sometimes it seems the only thing keeping these memories alive is saying them. Yet I’m afraid to share them out loud, to let them leave my mind and face them in reality. Are they just stories I have rehearsed? Were they ever real?
I’m afraid to write – and afraid not to. Writing has become the way I process my thoughts; sometimes I don’t know how I feel or what I think until it pours out into my laptop keyboard. But once I write, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the words as my own or as a conscious part of my experience.
If I put my memories in words, they might be reduced to letters and cease being a part of me. If I don’t, they might eventually be reduced to nothing, until all I have left is the vague impression that there used to be Something.
But maybe… that vague impression could be enough. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether I remember the details, as long as I retain the knowledge that his life was a part of mine. After all, I couldn’t define that connection even when he was alive; why would I be able to when he’s gone?
Was he smart? Funny? Kind? Did he help me find myself, or become a better person? Did I help him do the same, in the time he had? Some personality traits are hard to define; some impacts impossible to articulate. I can’t quite say what shaped us. All I know is that once upon a time, we were us, and that meant something – even though we ultimately had separate roads to take.
And though it might be amorphous, and the details might be fading, on some level that “us” will always be there. He will always, somehow, be a part of me.
I know this because sometimes, suddenly, some detail will come back, brought to light from under the decades of memories I’ve made since we last spoke, the many years since I found out he was gone forever.
A red Jeep Cherokee Laredo. I haven’t seen one in years. Or… have I just not noticed? But then one day, the words suddenly popped into my head out of nowhere. And I grabbed that memory, with all its accompanying bittersweetness, and I wrote it down. And now it’s here. Even if the memory is not as strong, not as real, once it’s taken on a life of its own on paper – better that, than not to be. I would rather it live there than to be stuck forever on a blurry road between past, present, and future.
So I remember that boy and his red Jeep Cherokee Laredo. In that way, I keep his memory alive.