The mood hit me today, as it hits me every once in a while. I’m sure it happens to you, too, where you start thinking about a person who used to be a part of your life.
Maybe it was your fault. Maybe it wasn’t. Or maybe, you’ve had enough time and distance to realize that fault and blame aren’t easy vectors to follow, to trace, to assign blame. Or maybe you admit it freely: you were the one who hauled the kerosene and blew that fucking bridge into the sky.
It doesn’t stop you from wanting to look back.
I don’t know whether it’s sadism or the annoyingly human trait of looking at the past with rose-colored glasses. Why do we, in the midst of our present struggles, look back, thinking the past was infinitely better?
Maybe it was objectively better. Or maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t seem to matter. All that matters is that slip and swish of nostalgia, the memories of the good moments with that person, even if those moments were few and far in between: the hugs, the great sex, the kisses, the texts, the holding hands, the bonfires at Huntington Beach.
I don’t understand why that chemical mush-sponge inside our skulls insists on highlighting the good things. You’d think that, in conditioning us to avoid pain, it would remind us of all of the bad things: the stony silence, the avoided glances, the unanswered texts, the sharply ambiguous MySpace and Facebook posts.
I’d rather remember all of the bad things when their face crops up in my mind. Every time I touch that memory, let it be like my hand on an open flame. Make it hurt to the touch — and bury it somewhere deep inside my subconscious.
Perhaps you, like me, have toyed around with the idea of rebuilding some of those bridges. Through the right combination of rosy nostalgia, unbridled optimism, honest regret, and the slightest tinge of loneliness, you think about reaching back out.
They’re right there on social media, after all. It only takes a click.
It would be easier than, say, the outright spying on them that you’re currently doing. Scanning through recent photographs and status updates, tracing the angle of their smile in those new pictures, seeing if it’s stronger and sharper than they ever smiled with you. Being careful not to click on anything that’ll send an alert directly to their phone — bzzz, bzzz, bzzz, here comes a ghost out of your past.
One of my favorite novels features a reconciliation like the one I imagine for the two of us.
After five years, a hell of a career, and a hell of an alcohol-and-trug tinged depressive episode, the protagonist, Adam, walking through New York, sees that his ex-girlfriend is giving a recital at Carnegie Hall. He goes to the box office, and, luck beyond luck, there are seats remaining. After a show, an usher appears and escorts him back stage. There is reconciliation. There is hearing.
Perhaps the same will happen for us, and I will go to see you on Broadway. And I’ll meet you at the stage door. Or I’ll see you at an audition, and we end up cast in a show together, as we dreamed back in our day. But I don’t think it will.
There are no story-book endings. That has been one of the lessons I’ve learned, lately. There is no resolution; there is no healing. As George Carlin said, “Let the scarring begin.”
There are some things that cannot be fixed.
Even as they tempt you, even as they call at you out of a rose-tinged pass, they are better left untouched, for the health and well-being of everyone involved. Even if you think that addressing them would relieve some wellspring of pain within you. Keep the wound closed.
There are no story-book endings. There are some regrets we are meant to carry forever.
Zach J. Payne is, to borrow the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “a polymath, a pain in the ass, a massive Payne”. He is a thespian, poet, and writer for young adults. He is the #2 Ninja Writer. A native of Whittier, CA, he currently lives in Warren, PA.