Last night, I was feeling nostalgic. I’d received sad news about an old friend, and my son had chosen this particular day to suddenly become mature. Plus, hormones.
I thought about a poem about the passage of time that has been an integral part of my internal operating system for more than a decade. It’s called “Límites”, and it was written by the Mexican poet José Emilio Pacheco. I’ve got it in an old book of translated poems, but that’s sealed up in a box in New Orleans, and for the life of me, at that late hour, I couldn’t remember enough of it to find it online.
But years ago, when I left New Orleans the second time, this time with my infant son to return to my own place of birth, rural North Carolina, I recorded the journey on a blog, my first. I’d named the blog after a line from the poem “…and the wind, as well you know, is a boundless vacancy, the sound the world makes when a moment dies.”
I thought maybe I’d put the whole poem on the blog, so I returned to it, a decade after writing the final post. I don’t think I’ve revisited since. Scrolling through the oldest entries, I found one titled “Pacheco. Again.”
Here’s what I’d written…
“there’s something in time
that has sailed away forever.”
Yes. Pacheco, again. All night.
There are things that I wanted that I can never have. Things that I had hoped for that will never be. Leaving New Orleans is my admission.
I’m like the person who storms out of the party and then hangs around just outside the door, waiting for someone to invite me back in. But it’s not going to happen. Sometimes you have to admit that it’s getting late. The party’s ended. Everyone else has gone home, forgotten the scene you made, would look at you with confusion if you apologized.
I’ve known all along that something sailed away from me. I just couldn’t admit to myself that it was forever. I sat on the edge of the river, waiting for its return with the hopeless hope of a child watching her toy boat being carried away on a careless current. She thinks, “If I sit here, it’ll come back to me.” That’s how children think. Maybe the hope is silent, but it’s there. You see it in her eyes. She’s just old enough to know that it’s hopeless, but she continues to hope nonetheless. But there’s also resignation. And then one day she grows up all the way. I don’t know. I guess the hopeless hope is still there somewhere. But the resignation gets heavier. Not depressing. I don’t mean it to sound that way. But one day, she stands, wipes the hem of her little dress, pushes her hair back from her eyes, and says, “Well, I’ve waited here long enough. It’s not coming back. I’ve lost it.”
Maybe then she builds a bigger boat. One that she can climb into. Maybe she’ll row down the river herself. Why not? Why sit, waiting?
She’s not going after her long lost toy. She’s just trying to keep up with time.
The party has ended. The boat has sailed. It’s time for me to follow suit.
Admittedly, it’s a little melodramatic. I was much younger then, and the circumstances felt, to me, melodramatic. I loved my child, and I wanted to make a happy life for both of us. But that meant letting go of dreams I’d cultivated for years, romantic fantasies of traveling the world, finding a soul mate, writing novels, et al.
I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t hopeless. I was releasing hopes that were no longer compatible with my life so that I wouldn’t be burdened by them. I was re-imagining my life so that I could be content in the situation as I found it.
But looking back, I see that I was also conjuring something for my future. It seems like it can’t be a coincidence that this year, I find myself building the boat of my dreams with my soul mate and the child that I worked so hard to make a happy life for in order to sail the world. It seems like, to an imaginative mind like mine, that I’d made a bargain with my future self, I’d left a bookmark in the pages of that old dream to return to later when I’d proven myself, when I’d learned more, when I’d be more equipped to appreciate it.
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