We don’t remember days. We remember moments.
~ Cesare Pavese
Terrible moments never to be retrieved, when I said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, failed to do the right thing, or made the wrong choice.
Golden-coloured moments when all the angels of heaven crowded about us and everything momentarily was right with the world.
Those moments when language failed me, and we lay on our backs on the snow-covered fields letting snowflakes drift into our open mouths.
Strange, haunted moments. There was the night we stood on the riverbank, watching a burning rowboat float past us and disappear around the bend. We would never know what possible confluence of circumstances, what mysterious chain of events, had led to that weird and awful sight.
Years later, we found ourselves taking shelter beneath a butcher shop awning in antediluvian New Orleans. There was a funeral procession passing by, with the sounds of clarinets and trumpets mingling with the smells of flower petals, bloody pork chops, and incense in the rain-dampened air.
Childhood moments: Burning with fever beneath a white eiderdown in my parents’ bed; sitting on a bar stool behind the counter of my grandfather’s grocery shop, inhaling the fragrance of pipe tobacco and Turkish cigarettes, falling asleep in front of the fireplace, watching the embers glowing in the darkened room, like the lights of a far-away city.
For all we know, when we die, we will find ourselves in a cold and frozen land. We may find ourselves in a place where there is no sound or feeling. We may find ourselves falling and falling through eternity, or in the stomach of an enormous whale. We may not find ourselves at all. It’s hard to tell. In truth, I’ve never been a planner.
In the end, it may well be that these fragile moments are all that has ever mattered, or ever will matter. A slow-fading smile, a sleight?of hand, a snatch of music, a glimpse of light, a half-remembered joke, the strangest thing, a movement seen out of the corner of the eye. The winds of eternity blow across the surface of existence, and like bright bonfire sparks, all these ephemeral, meaningless, horrible, beautiful, magnificent moments are lifted up, just briefly, before being extinguished forever. But they have existed, nonetheless. And not even the terrible giants of nothingness, with their hands of ice, their veins flowing with the blood of absolute zero, can deny the truth of that.