It’s strange how we move with time but cannot move against it. We map its landscape in memory and imagination and live as though we’re moving through it. But of course we’re not.
Today is the thirteenth anniversary of my father’s death. There’s nothing special about today—I know that—but as with all things that concern time, it feels as though there is. I tried my best today to remember what he smelled like, to remember his voice, its precise timbre, and wrap it around things he used to say. But instead I remembered the funeral of Jack’s brother who killed himself when he was twenty-three in 1987. At the funeral was a girl who loved his brother. She was small, with a small voice. After the service, friends of Jack’s brother took turns to speak of him as they remembered. She was the last one to come forward. She had brought with her a small note, something she had read somewhere, or written. She spoke not of him, but to us.
“Maybe you are lucky,” she said and adjusted her glasses.
She cleared her throat and started again.
“Maybe you are lucky and when you go there is still time to turn and wave before you walk off into a sunset of roses and fresh paint.”
She looked up and spoke from memory.
“Then again, perhaps you’re not. Perhaps you cross the street too carelessly one early Wednesday morning. Perhaps a boy who today learns long division will demand your purse and car one evening outside a restaurant twelve years and two months from now.”
She looked at her note, and then she continued.
“Maybe you go slowly and you sit and watch your time slip by like the Mondays in some diary.”
She folded the note and looked past us.
“But now?” she said. “Now? What are you going to do?”
She looked down and almost swallowed her last words. “Others perhaps not,” she said, “but you will know.”