Time is the longest distance between two places.
– Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
I pulled out all of my old pictures this morning. Printed, not digital. Remember when we used to do that? Pick up our photos from Walgreens or Long’s or Costco. Remember the tangible? The things we could feel with both our hands and our hearts.
I think I am addicted to nostalgia. So I look, knowing even the good times will hurt, too.
I grab a random photo from the stack. I have a bright red dress on – full of glitter. Like I had stolen all the stars from the sky and stitched them onto fabric. I used to shine. I am laughing – my crush has his arms around me; he’s kissing my cheek at our last eighth grade dance. I miss sparkling like that. Now, I forget about wishing on a star – the jadedness makes us all realize in the end, the only person we can depend upon is ourselves. Not the universe, sometimes not even those we love, and sure as hell not the stars.
Then there’s the picture of my best friend and me. Standing on the staircase in my parents’ house – it is free dress day for our first grade class. She’s in a girly jumper, the tomboy in me wears denim shorts and a t-shirt; my hair is pulled into a ponytail, and my bangs tickle my eyelashes.
I grab one of my favorite ones – I am sitting on top of a white van decorated with chalk paint – pink, blue, and yellow. I’m with a few of the girls from my high school cross-country team. I miss each and every one of them. It’s funny – looking at this photo, I can remember everything from that day. The way the dirt felt on my teeth during my race, the scent of hay and dried grass. The hot Salinas sky bearing down on us. And yet, our smiles are so wide, our laughs so big, it’s as if we could swallow a thousand suns whole. I hated the 4 a.m. swim practices, the 3:30 p.m. eight-mile runs. Then again, I loved it. Running taught me so much more than what I thought it could: discipline, determination, letting my mind open up on those runs so that I really saw the small details of the world. The backyard hummingbirds, the water bugs in that burgeoning creek, the way the elements feel against bare skin. We talk about the universe as if it’s a lover of sorts. It kisses us, embraces us; it has the power to destroy us, to mold us, to complete us.
There are countless photos of the years with my first love. The man that simultaneously filled and shattered my heart. The candid pictures of us in that little ice cream shop – those are my favorite. His cerulean eyes are squinted close in a goofy face; I am giggling as ice cream melts onto my fingers. The light from the wall-sized window illuminates us – multidimensional and memorable. I wanted to define the connection between us, but I never could. Years have gone by, and I still can’t.
But really, these thousands of photos only make me think of one thing: time. How quickly it goes. I have always found it ironic that the younger we are, the older we wish to be. And the older we are, the younger we wish to be. The young girl in these photos had no idea what I was actually experiencing when I was experiencing it. The thirteen-year-old me would never have guessed that nine years later, I would be dating that same boy that was dancing with me in my star-spangled, red dress. It was an autumn fling – enough electricity to channel lightning during those October rainstorms. It’s funny that I stay in touch with more people from middle school than those from college. The hands of time sewed them to me like shawls, protecting me as I grew.
The 27-year-old me is forever grateful that the best friend I had at six is the same best friend I have today. Time has also taught me that it’s possible to have more than one best friend. The idea of best is subjective, after all. Certain friends teach you certain things. Some friends are the friends that you explore with, others are the ones you can confide in, some are the ones you can sit around and watch television marathons with endless cups of coffee, and some are all three and more.
The more I scanned through those pictures, the more I wished I could go back in time. Not even to those moments, but to the moments that are captured in my digital prints. I cling to July 2012 sometimes, and only a few people know why. I cling to the person I was before September 2011. I cling to the woman I was in between heartbreaks and the kaleidoscope spirals when I’m falling in love.
Mostly, time has taught me that I am not invincible. That I need to be more present. I refuse to be an archetype. We are not meant to root ourselves in the past. We are wildflowers that are meant to spin free with the wind. We are wolves that should howl at a tiger moon. We are a renaissance. A revolution. We are not holograms. We are flesh. We are astronauts that pour stardust over our souls. We are eclipses that swallow the sun whole.