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gone in a moment [narrative]

loving a world that’s slipping out of my grasp

A few weeks ago, on a grocery run, I came across bunches of daffodils—the first sign of spring. I bought a bunch and brought them home, cradling them gently; I put them in an empty pasta jar and propped them up against the windowsill. Daffodils always remind me of home—my mother loves them and buys them every March because they make her think of spring. In turn, they remind her of her mother, who used to do the same.

Perched by the window, drinking in the sun, the buds quickly bloomed and smiled at me for a few days. Then, almost as quickly as they opened, they shriveled, leaving a trail of petals on the countertop.

*

Lately, I’ve been waking up feeling like the ground is falling out from under my feet. Each day, I open my eyes to the rays of sun peering into my face from over the windowsill and feel the dread of another day slipping away. 

Maybe it’s the way deadlines this time of year start to feel more and more inescapable, suffocating. It feels like tumbling down a cliff, desperately grabbing onto nearby branches and twigs, trying to somehow stay on my feet. When trying to keep all the due dates in my head, I inevitably start to lose my personhood. Who am I again? A student—a human? Ask me again tomorrow, which will come sooner than it should.

*

This year, February coated the streets with blankets of fluffy white snow. Pillowy, clean sheets covered the sidewalks, the streets, and especially the quads and open areas. The smoothness never lasted; invariably, it’d become scattered with trails of footsteps, spiraling in and out of each other. Rough marks we leave on the world, rushing to class, trying our best to stay upright in a February that wishes us to stay indoors and leave its sparkly snowbanks in peace. Or else, marks made with intention, reveling in the satisfying crunch of snow underfoot, and in seeing one’s physical form collide with the physical world, leaving behind a sign of presence. 

Then, the next day, the snow melts away, and the footprints with it—our marks erased by February’s temperamental moods.

*

Maybe it’s being a college student, watching my entire routine turn upside down as a new semester replaces the last. As soon as I build a life with a daily plan—post-class breakfast with a friend on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, a nine-to-five work schedule, classes I walk to almost thoughtlessly—it falls apart, and I have to rebuild it from the ground up. And there’s also the background knowledge that the life I’m building will, inevitably, turn upside down in just two years. Occasionally, I wonder if there’s any reason to decorate a castle that will inevitably be knocked down. 

*

One of the things I miss most about Northern California is walking along the beach. It’s almost always cold and gray, the waves breaking against the rocks, birds spinning overhead. Looking out over the horizon and into the fading gray makes me feel so small. In these moments, I let myself fade away a little, lost in thought and in the smell of soft, sandy salt. Sometimes, I run up to the edge of the waves, daring their icy tongues to lick at my feet. Other times, I’ll write words in the sand, letting my thoughts be swept away by the sea.

*

Maybe this is just what life is: grabbing on desperately for moments, watching them slip out of your hands like ribbons made of light blue silk. It’s so hard, nowadays, to believe that anything can be lasting. Each day, we’re bombarded by news of the various ways in which the world is likely to fall apart in the next few years. If everything is doomed to collapse, what is the point of trying to build anything up? We play a giant game of Jenga where the odds are against us a million to one. Some days, the dreams all seem to slip away.

*

My favorite room in my house is the kitchen. It’s a narrow room with cozy lighting and plants lining the windowsills. My housemates and I tend to gather around whenever someone cooks, sitting on the countertop or in chairs dragged into the corners. 

Cooking a meal together is one of the sweetest feelings. Slicing vegetables for someone’s stir fry, mixing dry ingredients for pancakes, or even just washing dishes to help speed up the process. Listening to music, surrounded by warm conversation. Making something touched by many hands, meant to be enjoyed and consumed. 

*
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Honestly, maybe that’s the whole point. Or rather, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that’s all I can do—live moment to moment, hold them each for a second in the palm of my hand, pressing them against my cheeks. Go outside and feel the cold air sting my face, look up at the sky and count the clouds. Drink a cup of tea with milk and taste its sweetness on my tongue. Look up at the moon and smile at the streetlights and write down phrases in my journal and laugh with the people I love. Maybe it’s the fact that things end that makes them matter. We are all so small, just one note in the universe’s song. Just kaleidoscopes of moments and memories.

*

It was midnight, and we’d just finished watching The Secret Garden. I was squished on the couch between two friends as the snowflakes floated down outside. We were talking about something, laughing, maybe, I don’t remember why anymore. Just one snapshot of many. All I remember is that, at that moment, I wanted to be there and nowhere else. And it didn’t matter if, eventually, it would fade away.

Sometimes, laughter is most beautiful as it’s fading away.



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