Monday, December 16, 2013
POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.
I arrived in LA for the holidays on Saturday night. My journey began early, with a walk in the snow to Penn Station. It ended nearly eleven hours later, after a layover in San Francisco during which I ate bad chocolate and watched hours of the news on mute.
Half-dreaming as the plane touched down in Burbank, I remembered my brother and me, as kids, arguing about who would get the window seat on our yearly trips to Tokyo. Both of us wanted to be first to see the city lights below, which seemed infinite and vast, and looked not only like stars, but like an entire universe.
Saturday evening, on the ride home from the airport, I passed my high school, nestled inconspicuously among the trees on Magnolia Boulevard. That place looks familiar, I found myself thinking, before realizing, foolishly, that I’d spent years of my life there.
There was a bench out front where I’d sat with my friends hundreds of times - watching traffic, waiting for rides, drinking coffee and pretending to like it. It was still there, ten years later, and, squinting, I could see myself at 16, sitting there - smiling, gesturing, ghostlike.
Riding on Yair’s handlebars this summer, I’d caught glimpses of familiar cafes and shops and street corners and stretches of grass, and thought, this is where I wrote that essay. That was where Megan and I had drinks and wrote poems about sprinkles. Here's where I met that artist. I remember saying, “Traveling through New York City is like seeing ghosts.” Zipping past, my feet dangling, I could see myself in all of those places, with all of those people, if only for a moment.
In our twenties, people come and go. Friendships end. Relationships evolve and dissolve. We enter each other’s worlds for weeks or months at a time, never to speak again. Yet we can’t help wondering what's happened, or where these people have gone. We’re haunted by living ghosts.
My sister-in-law once said while looking at my niece, then three or four years old: “As a parent, you’re constantly letting go. They become toddlers, and you lose the baby. They become little girls, and you lose the toddler.”
I’m not the same person I was years - or even months - ago. I’ve lived in different places, made different friends, discovered new interests, changed my priorities. In tiny, impalpable increments, I’ve grown into someone new. I’ve lost the 22-year-old, and the 25-year-old; the 26- and 27-year-old, too. But I see her now and then, tearing up in coffee shops, riding a bike for the first time, fretting under trees in the park.
As I write this, I realize it’s a hard phenomenon to put to words. It’s a hard thing to explain, that as I’ve gotten older, I often confuse dreams with memories. That sometimes, day-to-day life feels like an out-of-body experience. That when I think about it, I can’t tell if it’s been decades or months or minutes or seconds since I thought that time passed slowly, that people were permanent, that the lights of one city reflected the entire world.