It is said that as humans, we only remember significant instances in our lives. If nothing significant happens, each day unfolds just like the one before, with everything flat and dull and unmemorable. For better or for worse, our brains are stocked neatly with memories of importance, not ones of bland, ordinary goings-on. It is said this is true. Significance lasts forever; if someone asked you what you were doing on this day five years ago, you might have a different answer than me. You might say you don’t remember. You might shrug off what didn’t matter five years ago.
It mattered to me, though. It mattered. Five years ago today was one of those days of significance, one that is committed to memory, one that will not soon dissipate, regardless of how unimportant it is now in this moment when I’m looking at blue sky shining down over the cold wintery view of my office. That day is one that I can remember every single detail of as if I could open my eyes and watch it unfold before me right now in this moment.
I don’t want to do that though. I don’t want to watch this day happen ever again. I want to shelve it with all those other memories and close the door on it forever and not remember the impact it had on my life, and not remember what it was like 72 hours later when the next novel of my life began after the earth-shattering, heartbreaking conclusion of the first one.
Days that leave your world more desolate, foreign and cold than you ever thought possible are days which are not worth repeating. It takes so long to realize that, until you fully realize that. They’re like stones skipped across a river; they bounce multiple times and make ripples, until they sink to the bottom and disappear from sight. But they’re still there. The water – the same water that rippled when you tossed the stone – erodes it. Until it becomes smooth and diminished and harmless, its sharp obsidian edges softened and rounded. And there it stays.
I’ll never forget what I was doing five years ago today. Five years ago tomorrow I was walking home at first light and the sun was out, highlighting fresh mounds of snow. I came in the door while my roommates were all still asleep. The living room was dark and warm. I kicked off my boots and threw my coat on the couch. I was exhausted and so, so happy. I felt alive and well and resurrected and refreshed and reborn. I went into my bedroom and closed and locked the door, and then I lay quietly down on my bed and fell into a groggy sleep, without blankets so the sunrays could shine through my bedroom window. I have never gone to sleep so happy. I wonder if I ever will again.