Yesterday in a short note to cheer me up she wrote, “let go of the past; accept the present, and have faith in the future.” It all sounded nice to me, and though I had heard versions of it before, I thought I would dedicate myself to the process the next day, beginning with “letting go of the past.” That night I fell asleep with the words in my heart.
The next morning when I would normally have woken up, only a hole where I used to be remained. The bed was empty. The room was cold and silent. What happened I wondered, remembering the night before when I fell asleep with “letting go” in my heart. It wasn’t long before I realized that when I let go of the past, I had let go of myself because every part of my entire existence was a product of all the existences before me. The atoms in me, they were from the oldest known and unknown time of the universe. The cells those atoms coalesced into, 99% of them were from before I went to bed. The brain I went to bed with had been with me for years, and was full of everything that had happened before I was even born, through every moment until I had gone to sleep. My genes were from the old world, and the world before that, and that, all the way until the time we weren’t even humans, but something shorter, hairier and with tails designed to cling onto tree limbs.
I thought of the trees I had climbed as a child, and could still feel the echo of their branches in my hands. I remembered the time he said he would give me a gift if I could climb to the top, and the time she kissed me for having made it safely down. I remembered the kiss that woke me to adulthood, and the kiss that healed me when I was sad, and then the time we held hands in the rain, and how the rain had come from the past, when it was molecules of water in the ocean, and all the lives in the ocean itself, how all the creatures that ever have been climbed from the sea at one time so long ago, we can’t possibly forget. I looked out the window I had fallen asleep under and saw that the tree whose shade I longed for each afternoon was gone, and how the sun I would normally have woken to, had disappeared from a sky no longer there.
It was cold where I was, and when I tried to open my mouth to speak, no words could emerge because the words in me had been shaped over millions of years, had grown into a complex puzzle that included all the loves I had lost, all the joys I had found, the time we heard the meteor falling through the African night sky, the time she looked at me softly and said, “I love you Ray,” that was gone, and the only thing left was a blackness where the words, “I love you, too” were frozen in a place I could not find my way out of.
Sound and light were gone too, because both sound and light are the past, as is touch, and the feeling of her body curled inside mine, and the past of her scent still lingering in the soft cotton moment of her birth. The time we fell asleep on the floor in front of the screen door, with the little saluki who ran to us one morning between us, and how in that one creature a world of love opened in me that only moments ago died when I let got of myself and disappeared into a world of cold darkness.
If everything is connected in me, and has evolved over billions of years to create the person I now am, how much of what I let go of is essential to my being alive? I am so connected up in everything I breathe that when I try to pull him out, I pull her out, and when I try to take his death away, I take her birth with it, and the smile I have since never seen him wear. With the darkness and cold, goes the light and warmth. When I removed the time she crushed my heart, I remove the time she healed it.
In having been crushed, I understand the crushed. In having been exalted I understand the exalted. In having been spoken to, I understand speech. In having been hit and hugged, I understand touch. When I try to walk forward in life without my past I know that I will simply fall over because even in the learning of walking is the day we played together in the back yard and the sun poured over us laughing.