Memory is a strange, fluid, ethereal part of the human mind, and we are constantly reminded memory is flawed, perhaps tragically so, yet we rely upon it, swear that it is true, even as we search for some lost item, convinced it is somewhere it clearly is not, and was not, at least not this time.
But time too, is something we both worship and ignore, like a god we know that one day will kill us, yet we spend time staring off into space, wondering what to do with it before our death comes to us, when our time is finished.
Yesterday’s dawn brought me clouds low and fast moving, and clouds above them, two different colors, the contrast exciting for I remember seeing clouds like this when I was a small child. I was in the city pool, watching the clouds, standing in cold water up to my shoulders, amazed at the two layers of atmosphere which both held clouds. We adults tend to forget that children experience life as a series of wonders, the planet and life still alien to them, the colors still a mystery, the names of so many things still unknown, and perhaps unknowable, and there in the cold water of the early summer pool, I had no idea if what I was seeing was common, or rare, or had never happened before.
What I was certain of was school was out. School was prison, it was torture, humiliating, and to have three months of my life free of school was like learning to fly. And there, in the water, a liquid world of weightlessness, and pure pleasure, I looked up at the clouds, more water, and full of delight at being alive. The sharp sense of cold from both the wind and the water, the sight of clouds moving above, the feel of bareness of my feet on the concrete of the pool, and there in that moment, memory formed and stayed forever.
Or did it?
But now the pool is gone. Crushed and buried on site, the vacant lot seems tiny in comparison to what I remember, the poles that held the lights are gone, the tanks that cleaned the water are gone, and nothing remains. Children, very young children, have grown up to have children of their own, and they too have kids now, and some of those children whose bare feet paddled them around in the water have been long since dead. Their memories circled the drain of life, like the last time the pool was emptied, and now, nothing remains of those moments of wonder they might have experienced.
Was it ever real? How much has been transmogrified by time and polluted by remembering, and therefore changed in some way, until like a painting touched up too many times, only a template of the original remains, but no one notices. Yet the sight of clouds under clouds, clouds over clouds, scurrying away, different colors, different winds, still delight me. I still feel the cold water, the cold air of early June, the feeling that just above me, out of reach, was something beautiful, wonderful, magical, and transient. It was glorious. It was exhilarating. It was incredible.
It was life.