Tempus Fugit (a meditation)
At the end of my days, when my own time spins itself out, and I have barely a slivered portion of the abundance I currently possess…I hope that I’m able to stack up the years not by their dates but by something infinitely more precious – the moments that filled them.
— excerpt from “Tempus Fugit: The Debacle of Time” by Cerella Sechrist
My entire life is about moments, to the point where I have very few concrete memories of entire periods of my life but an increasing number of remembered moments, recalled instances. I used to lament the fact that I cannot remember the experience of 6+ college years. Then I decided that because those years were so bleak I did not need to remember their fullness. Instead, I needed to remember only what came to mind. Like, six young women sitting on two twin beds in my dorm room, getting to know each other during the first weeks of our first semester. How one of those women said something and received a strong reaction from the group, after which she replied, “Put me in jail,” while flipping over my bed comforter to reveal its black-and-white striped underside. Ha!
I remember weekend meals in the campus cafe where all six of us ate together and shared stories and frustrations and fears and successes. I remember all of us helping one of those women through the struggles of a long-distance relationship with her high school boyfriend and dealing with the guilt of trying a separation so she could date a guy she’d met at church in town.
I remember telling lies to these women because I couldn’t stop myself from trying to impress everyone I met with tales of being someone I was never going to become.
I remember the hurt expression of my suite mate on the morning after I had bolted my side of the door to her adjoining room without telling anyone that I would be doing it (including my own roommate). And I remember that our suite mates rarely spoke to me ever again.
I remember catching the eye of a man while sitting in IHOP in the wee morning hours after Halloween night, still wearing the heavy makeup of my gypsy costume but having changed into ragged jeans and a flipped-bill cap to cover hair matted by the long scarf I had been wearing. I remember vividly the thrill I felt as I hopped on the back of his motorcycle and rode off with this man I’d only just met the hour before. And I remember the swell of joy I felt when this same man called 3 months later, apologizing for the delay and regaling me with a convoluted story of how he’d misplaced my number and had been looking for it all that time. I remember lying in bed for several hours and just talking on the phone, sharing stories and secrets. I also remember the emptiness I felt on the morning after my 21st birthday as I drove away from his apartment with complete certainty that I’d never be seeing him again.
I remember sharing a ridiculous music obsession with my best friend that took us to a concert where we were the oldest people in the audience not chaperoning their squealing daughters. And I remember having a fantastic time. I also remember feeling much, much hipper months later as I watched an early ’90s Billy Idol rock a crowd in which I was one of the younger members. And I will never forget being pulled over by a police officer on the way home from that concert and feeling a rush of relief when the problem was only a broken taillight. Though I still hated being asked to step out of my car on the side of the road in my college town!
I remember moving off-campus into my first apartment and sharing it with my best friend plus two acquaintances, then watching one of those girls move out within a few months. And I remember not feeling sorry when I became the cause of the fourth roommate’s departure. I remember feeling only happiness that I could now enjoy quieter days without having to compete for the attention of my best friend. I also remember being unapologetic to that best friend whenever she pointed out some fault or stupidity of mine. I remember that I was a horrible person back then and didn’t even care.
There is much I remember clearly, but only in small scenes. If you ask me to recall names of school mates, I cannot tell you more than five or six, and only their first names. If you ask me for facts about places or people, I can rarely tell you anything. But if you ask me to tell you a story, well, I can talk for hours and give you dozens. My entire memory is filled with moments — categorized and organized and filed away for retrieval based on emotional and sensory stimuli. Don’t ask me what highway runs between my town of residence and my college home. I can’t recall the number. But if you want to know where to stop for lunch, let me tell you about the little Dairy Queen and how it is the halfway point where I stopped each and every time to grab a Coke and a soft serve and how I came to view it as the necessary emotional transition point between my college life of independence and the life at home where I always felt like a foreigner.
Those moments are seared in my mind.