On Reliving Moments from the Past

If you got to relive one day of your life, when would it be?

It’s tempting to pick a day when something really bad happened. Maybe it’s a date of an unfortunate accident, like getting lost in fog and running a car headfirst into a stone wall. Maybe it’s a day when a drunk driver runs a stop sign and slams into your car’s driver side door. Maybe it’s the day that a friendship ends in tears and tatters.

In other words, maybe it’s a day when things go wrong. Maybe it’s a day when you think that time and experience could change things. I’ve heard it said, after all, that time travel is a concept young children grasp very well when they make a wish to “make it not happen.”

The thing is, it’s the bad things that happen that make us who we are. It’s how we deal with the slings and arrows, to borrow a phrase, that helps us grow. We find our coping mechanisms. We develop emotional scar tissue. The bad things in life may not happen for a reason, but they don’t have to be bad over the long term. Life isn’t a sprint, after all.

Yes, I’ve been drinking. Why do you ask? Oh, is it the cod philosophy? I’ll try and tone that down, thanks.

My point, such as it is, is this — yes, there’s a natural emotional pull toward the desire to relive the bad days in our life, but if I had to pick a day to relive, I would pick one of the good days.

But which one? I don’t know that I can choose.

January 16, 1999 is an obvious choice. It was the second day of the debate tournament at George Mason University. There was a party at Jake Weiner’s apartment off-campus, which a friend of mine really wanted to attend. It was there that I met Jason Gronberg during, of all things, a conversation on circumcision.

Jason died in November 2008, six months to the day after his mother passed away. I wish I could say our last conversation, two days before he died, was profound, but it was nothing of the sort. We talked about Sophia Myles and eBay scams. There’s no connection between the two, by the way.

June 30, 1999. My first day of work with EB Games. I would say, with absolute certainty, that I met Chris Jackson and his girlfriend on that first day. (Chris died earlier this year.)

October 10, 1999. I met S.M., who is number three on the list of women Allyn most clicked with. We had a really intense six hours. Nothing ever came of it — we lived ten hours of hard driving apart — but, damn, was I smitten.

S.M. married. She’s S.B. now. She lived in Raleigh at the same time I lived there, though our paths (to my knowledge) never crossed. She has a daughter, she taught college English at one of the universities there. The Carbon Leaf song “Blue Ridge Laughing” is how I think of her.

September 30, 2001. Jason and I went to see the Orioles play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It was a bloody cold and miserable day in the Bronx. Rain started during the fifth inning, and it continued into the sixteenth when the game was finally called on account of rain. Well, that and the fact that Bernie Williams lost his grip on his rain-soaked bat, tossed it into the stands, and whacked a guy in the head. Yes, Jason and I stayed until the brutal, bloody, and utterly inconsequential end, even if the stadium was abandoned by all but maybe two thousand by that time.

June 15, 2004 and July 19, 2005 both come to mind. I met some of my former EB Games employees on those days. (Unlike the first four dates, I had to look these ones up.)

February 14, 2009. That date belongs on this list, too, for reasons I’ll keep to myself.

The thing about this list…

Yes, these are all days I would willingly relive, just to experience them all over again for the first time. They’re all good memories, happy memories, delerious memories. Moments of great significance and import. But none of them would be my first choice.

I can’t fix the date for the first choice, not precisely. Mid-February 1996 is the best I can do. I can’t tell you if it was in the middle of the week or on the weekend. I can’t tell you what I did that day, not entirely. I think I might possibly have bought Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s Star Wars novel Before the Crisis that day, which would fix the date in late-February, I think.

I can tell you where it was, the Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road in Charlottesville. I can tell you who was there. I know how our conversation went.

In my mind’s eye, I can see where she was, I can even see how she stood. I can almost see her name badge, in the café a few minutes later. I can’t see her. There’s a memory wall there.

I would relive that day. In a heartbeat I would relive that day. Just to fill in the gaps in the mind’s eye.

Maybe it’s for the best that I can’t, that the memory is walled off and I can’t relive that day. Maybe the reality falls short of what I think that memory should be.

That’s the trouble with memory. It is so subjective.

Still, that’s the day I would go go back in time and relive. A nameless, faceless day in late February 1996, when I was twenty-two and still had a decent amount of hair on my head.

That’s where I would go.

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