Rohit's Realm

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May 17, 2008

The Past Will Tear Us Apart

The ability of the human mind to conjure potent and extraordinarily vivid memories from tangential sights and sounds never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps it should: at some level, it is these very mental non sequitors that form the basis of our collective experience in this (necessarily futile) existence. And yet, when the memory evoked is of particular poignancy or significance, the almost narcotic effect that follows is one for which I am never fully prepared.

Sometimes it is the intense euphoria of a blissful moment from years past (yes, even I have had one or two such moments in my life). For instance, I can never hear Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart, without being transported back to my freshman year of college, 18 years old and swaying (awkwardly) on the dance floor of a Berkeley coop with a woman (probably) way too hot for me. (Then again, are there any other kind?) That was a good night. (Don't worry, nothing ever became of that encounter. Some things don't change.)

Other times, however, the effect is not one of euphoria, but rather, gut-wrenching sadness, the agony to complement the ecstasy. Last night was such a time.

In retrospect, the onslaught was not unforeseeable. Several events had transpired in the last week that set the stage. The proverbial last straw was irritatingly absurd. While standing around a table at a Wicker Park venue watching a friend's concert, someone behind me said something to her friend. The voice was incredibly familiar. I snapped around. It was nothing—I did not know the women behind me. But my mind was already off to the races.

Memories consumed me as though the floodgates of a forgotten past had been blown open by a stick of dynamite. Good ones and bad, those that were happy and those that were sad. Within moments, there was the paradoxical cognitive dissonance that always accompanies these sorts of times: consummate joy; overwhelming nostalgia; unflappable anger; incontrovertible grief; but most of all, a profound and almost paralyzing sadness. I was back in a time and place I did not want to be, reliving a period of my life I had tried with much difficulty to put squarely behind me—hitherto successfully, or so I thought. Resistance was futile. I was not going to be able to escape it. Following not far behind was the worst emotion of all: regret.

Now, as a general matter, I try very hard to not regret much, and I think I do a decent job of implementing that goal; I really have very few regrets in my life. That is not to say that I have never made mistakes worthy of regret—I have made more than my fair share—only that I make a concerted effort to learn from them and move on. But, at the same time, those things which I do regret in my past, I regret with a furious intensity.

My surreal trip through memory lane's oft-traveled path last night revolved around a particularly regrettable episode. Coming to terms with my impotence in that situation the first time around was hard enough—and perhaps, I never really did. I have no idea how long it will take me the second time around. The can of worms is open again, and it ain't going nowhere.

Some things cannot be fixed; other things ought not be. I know this. Now, if only I could actually bring myself to believe it.

I knew there was a reason I'm in the top ten on Google for the phrase overly analytical.


We'll have to swap stories sometime.

I've been wanting to write something like this for a while (sans Berkeley coop, wtf were you doing there?). Shakespeare could have done no better.

I'm number one on Google for "fanciful unicorns," as long as we're going down that road.

I'm not sure what to make of this. The sensitivity and emotion you display in this article does not comport with my preferred view of you as a total soulless jackass. Please tell me you are not going to make this a habit.

This is exactly how I felt a couple weeks ago when I smelled a familiar cologne. You write very well.

I hope you are able to close the can of worms again soon.

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