I remember the drive. The moment we learned of the hokey pokey it lived. Out, but never really in. We were in a car. I don’t know where we were going, I don’t even remember if we got there. I just remember the road, and the knowledge ringing in my ears.
Grief is a strange emotion. In the majority of cases you grieve someone you know, someone you love; loved, I guess. That transition from present to past tense is the bit that I struggle to deal with. And that’s what made this drive so strange. There was never a present, never a future. It existed purely in the past.
To say I haven’t grieved would be fairly accurate, I suppose. How can I? How can you grieve something that never existed in your consciousness? There are no happy memories to reflect on, no bad ones either; just a time before, and a time after the drive.
In my own way, I do. Did? I don’t know. There are fleeting moments when the memory of the drive crashes into my thoughts like a tidal wave into an unsuspecting city. Moments when my brain creates memories of a future that never was; a present that should have been now. And like a tidal wave, the lashing of the tide inside my mind can leave devastation that takes time to clear.
Those are the times I wish it had been different. But most of the time I’m glad. Maybe not glad, but thankful; maybe not even thankful. Christ. It’s a hard feeling to describe without sounding like your heart is made of stone. Like your own selfish needs are more important than anyone else’s.
Life somehow goes on. I guess that’s what I mean. You try to grieve. You move on. You make sure you don’t forget. You allow those memories that never existed the chance to develop, and you always remember them.
For me, I remember the drive.
It changed me, definitely. When something like that happens, it’s almost like a line is drawn in the sand. You can’t really remember what life was like before, all you know is the afterwards, and you just know that the world is different now. It looks the same, but it isn’t. People treat you the same, but you’re not. That youthful invincibility evaporates. That firm belief that everything is just going to work out alright. You can almost see it floating away, like smoke on the wind.
Logically I know that I wasn’t to know, that I never could have known. That, there was nothing I could have done differently. But how could I not have known? It was in me. An invisible passenger; a stowaway. That’s what rankles with me. That’s the question that swirls in the pit of my stomach. That rising feeling in my chest. How could I not know?
As seconds turned into years, the feelings haven’t subsided. People say time is a healer, but they just say it because they don’t know what else to say. What really happens is you have more experiences, add more memories into your mind, and it’s harder to find those painful ones. But they’re still there. You can still find them. It’s kind of like searching for a needle in a haystack. People say you can’t do it, but if you run your hands through the hay for long enough, you will feel that painful prick.
There’s a certain numbness to my joy now. As I celebrate a moment, create a memory, there’s this voice at the back of brain saying “but imagine how it might have been”. I guess that’s my life now. A series of wonderful moments interspersed with the memories of what didn’t happen.
Sometimes it’s like it never left. It just moved to my brain and lives in the back of my thoughts, with my conscience. Now I think of it like that, I kind of like the thought. It never left. It’ll always be there. It’ll always be a part of me.
Neither my arrival nor departure was met with fanfare. I snuck into existence without permission, without an invitation, like a gate crasher at a party. Not the loud, attention seeking kind, but someone who arrives late and unnoticed, eats the dip, enjoys the music, and is gone before anyone can ask questions.
I was a baby when I was born, or I would have been at least. Mine was a life like many others; ordinary, but extraordinary; short, but significant. I suppose to suggest it was a life is rather stretching the truth, but there aren’t really the words to describe my time in this mortal coil, so until someone can give me a better collection of letters, life will have to do.
In truth, the life I lived was unremarkable. I didn’t achieve anything of note, nobody recognised my contributions, I had no friends – even my parents didn’t notice me. I like to think of myself as a modern day Kafka. My legacy was to come after my timeline had burned out.
I was born in a river of blood, to a family that hadn’t anticipated me. Unwelcome, unplanned, unnamed. If you blinked, you missed it. But that was me.
It’s funny, really. Not ‘haha’ funny, more curious, I guess. Nobody knew I was coming, and nobody knew I had left. But when they discovered my brief flirtation with living, deep wells of sadness poured. There were questions, there were tears.
If I’m being brutally honest, the tears were a bit of a comfort to me. I mean, who doesn’t want to be missed? Who doesn’t want to feel that they’ve made an impact? Okay, it would’ve been nice to have made a more positive splash in life, but that’s not for us all.
In the years that have since rolled by I have remained unchanged; a nameless memory. Thoughts are spent on me less frequently than they once were, but the emotions those thoughts provoke are as strong and raw as they ever were.
And that’s the way it is, and will always be, I suppose. I can never return, I can never be replaced, I can never be forgotten. I will always be grieved, I will always be loved.