Beginnings and Endings

For every place we inhabit and every person we meet, there will always be a last visit.  It may be one last wistful glance over an apartment or house that has held, nourished and comforted for many years; somewhere that was both a temporary residence and the home of homes.  It may be a college campus or classroom, or workplace or cubicle, a local haunt like a coffee shop or bar.  It could be a fight with a girlfriend, a tear-fractured gaze into the wizened face of a passing parent, or even a careless goodbye to a friend killed in a cruel but all too common twist of fate.  One of the harsh facts of the human condition is that we must say goodbye.  The people and places we’ve loved and hated will soon depart our consciousness, whether by their leave or ours.  We need not embrace or desire this reality, but at least come to accept it.

This is the inevitability that I experience when newness comes upon me.  When I make a new acquaintance, and begin to pass that awkward phase of unknowing, into the territory of the friendly and familiar.  While others revel in the joy of novelty, I live in the dismal future, knowing that one day this inevitability must come to pass.  The crackle of a new bond shoots through the air, electrifying it and energizing the participants; I smile, but look past it, knowing that this beauty like others before it must wither with the grating presence of acquaintance and acclimation.  With good fortune this may be a great length of time, extended by disparity of experience and uniquely bonded personality.  But, humanity is fragile.  Someday either life or death will tear us apart.

Much the same is true of the locales we inhabit; the cities, states and countries we choose to live in, the residences and workplaces that constitute our homes.  Even those places we frequent, the coffee shops, bars, bookstores, restaurants, that form so much of who we are and what we experience.  With places, a person need not fear so much that the other will grow away and take a direction of their own.  Places remain much the same.  With places, we think more on the experiences we have within them, the lives we lead and the memories that become imprinted within their walls.   We humans have a peculiar spacial memory that can leave nasty scars or beauteous dreams upon an otherwise plain piece of scenery.  I kissed the first woman I loved on that couch, I committed my worst sin in that apartment, I found the true direction of my life while laying on that beach and looking up at the stars.  Human experience happens in both time and space, and while we may struggle with the temporality of our existence, we show an exquisite talent in tying a life lived to its fateful locations.

And yet, there comes a time when we must be separated from these islands of meaningful reality.  Who is to say when this day may come?  Some events may be forseen, such as closing and locking the door on a leased apartment that has been the first true home you ever felt as your own.  But tell me: what will be your last visit to the town you grew up in?  When will be your last visit to a restaurant, a library, a park where you enjoyed the bright gaze of the sun from the shadow of a giant oak?  Maybe you will know this place is being torn down or that you are on your way out; more likely, you will visit such a place, with every intention that you will someday return.  It may be a small lie you tell yourself, to make the terrible parting that much easier.  It may be that it simply never happens; you become to busy with your spouse, your child, your job, your life.  Someday, you will leave every place you have ever been, and never return to it.

These are the things I think about, as I encounter new experiences in my life.  In a way, it distances me from them, reminding me that while it is new now, it must end someday; in a way, it brings me closer.  I can never forget that everything I experience is a ticking clock.  I can never take a thing, a place, a person for granted because I know that one day by death or life, it will all fade away.  It may sound tragic or horrible.  I cannot argue with that assessment and still be honest to myself, but there is a better, stronger effect.  It reminds me that I am alive.

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