Sunday, March 01, 2009


Rain. I stand at the window, watching it fall. It's late February, but this looks and feels like an October rain, cold, relentless and melancholy. This is my vacation.

I've been spending some time in a town I once called home, a town I still recall with great fondness, with well-stocked bookstores, a lively music scene and countless wonderful restaurants. I love this place, and I love coming back, but as the afternoon blends into my last night here and my thoughts turn to the trip home, the skies darken and the rain falls. How nice--every vacation should come complete with its own heavy-handed metaphor.

Between the weather and the fact that I've done most of what I wanted to do, I've been holed up in my room for the last two hours, watching Almost Famous on HBO. I'd only seen it once before, in the theater when originally released. It was a Monday night, and I was with my wife, because I was married then.  And it was strange that we were there, because we seldom went out during the week. It was a big deal for us if we stayed up until nine.

Why did we go to a movie that night?  Was there a reason for it?  Had we dropped off one of our cars at the shop? Did I pick her up after work, and was there a reason I would have done so? Or did we just go out because we could? Was it a date night? Did we go out to eat first? Did we talk, did we laugh, did we have fun?

How has it come to this? How can I remember the experience of seeing a movie, the time and the place, but not the real life surrounding the event? It's not like Almost Famous is a movie I even care that much about.  It's not as important to me as she was.  Right?

I'm finding a lot of that on this trip: Memories of places I went with her, things I did with her, only she's no longer there. The physical locations now exist independent of her. Trace amounts can be found, of course: in this alley we kissed in the rain, on this doorstep we argued, at this now-shuttered record store we first met. But these memories are brief, they flicker and are gone. The town is its own reality, the shops and the restaurants. I love it here, and it has nothing to do with her.

Which is good, of course, but...strange. This is a person I lived with every day for several years. We ate and bathed and slept together. We joked and we fought. I know we did these things, even if I can't quite recall them. Sometimes the whole marriage feels like something I only imagined, or something that happened to somebody else, a story told so often it takes on its own reality, a sitcom only experienced vicariously.

Yes, forgetting is necessary. No one should be defined by their past. After all, one subsequent relationship I cared about very much was derailed in part by my inability to let go of the past. And yes, maybe it's true: all that matters is to live for the moment. But who would want to live for this moment: Standing in a motel room, looking out the window in a daze?

Cars prowl the parking lot, the squish-squish of tires on wet asphalt louder than the roar of engines. This place is starting to fill up now, mostly guys, mostly alone, some couples, no families on a weeknight. So many people staying here for one night, or two, or who knows how many. Are they pilgrims on a longer journey, or is this their destination? When morning comes and they move on, will they remember their time here at all? Or will it be forgotten, like a passing, dreary rain?