I am driving down PA 28, barreling toward the city with the windows rolled down so that the wind can slip through the car cabin and whip my hair all about. The music is turned up loud, but the howls of the wind are louder still. I am there in the driver’s seat one second, and the next I am small again, sitting in the passenger seat, my little arm stretched out to the sky with my hand cupped to catch the air. I look at my dad and he smiles, tells me that if I angle my hand up, my arm will move up with the wind. If I angle it down, my arm will be pushed by the air. I do these things and marvel at my arm moving up and down, up and down, up and down with each twist of my wrist. That’s kind of how airplanes work, Dad says over the wind. I am a little girl again, my hair stinging my cheeks as wild strands slap against my face, the sun hitting my outstretched arm. I am back in my own car, passing busses and racing a train and staring out at the clouds in the sky, smiling goofy to myself.
I am standing in Target, perusing the game aisles and considering my options. I want to buy Qwirkle but I keep scanning the shelves for a deck of Set that I know will drive me crazy. I don’t see either, and as I look down the aisle one direction and the next, I get this sense that I am no longer in Pittsburgh. I am transported, along with this aisle in Target, back to my home in Oviedo. For a moment, I am not in Pennsylvania, but I am smack in the middle of Florida and I get this feeling like someone I know will round the corner at any moment. I wait on bated breath to see who will come and say hello. But no one comes. No one rounds the corner, not even a stranger. And at this point, a stranger’s hello would be more welcome than the emptiness. “No man is an island unto himself,” but I sure feel deserted right about now.
I am walking up the stairs at 1149 when I reach the landing and catch a glimpse of her bedroom. For a second I see her, sitting there in the white satiny upholstered swivel chair that claims the corner by the fireplace. I see her sitting, looking down and reading the book on her lap. I pause, watching as she brings a hand to her nose, moves away the tube that breathes oxygen into her, and dabs a tissue at the condensation and snot that sits on the cusps of her nostrils. She crumples the tissue in her hand and goes back to reading, her air back in place above her lip. I shake my head and the picture fades. She is not there. The chair has sat unoccupied since her departure months ago. I keep walking up the stairs, past her room, on up to my own and shut the door behind me.
Memories are funny that way. They grab you when you least expect them to, suck you in, show you what was and what no longer is. Memories can be sweet and soft, kissing you gently as they pull you down. Memories can be hopeful and leave you wanting more, leave you stewing in your loneliness. Memories can leave you bitter and angry at the unfairness of it all. They grab you and pull you and hold on tight for those fleeting moments of joy, pain, and grief. They leave you differently than when they found you, leave you breathing in fresh air or choking you with poison.