The story tellers.
She had watched them from across the bar, lending one ear to orders and the other to their conversations, thinking ‘all this travel, of all the places - why did you settle here?’.
Community, she’d realise, in time. The sense of belonging to something; of something belonging to you - a difficult thing to find for most people, so they’d return to where they knew it best; plaster pictures of their voyages on walls, mantle pieces; wear the stories of them on their breath, whiskey-stained and wine-sweet, as they sat on bar stools long after the sun had set. They wandered and returned to where they left off. Carved themselves lives in a familiar place with familiar faces; the same change in seasons; the same miles long beach with the lull of its neap-tide - the comfort in its constants.
She understood this now, from a distance. From a new place, of new faces and opposite seasons. Far different from the one she found herself looking back on; the place of bar stool stories, and a beach from which she still wears a shell - pearl white, sea-rounded - on a rose gold chain she had made the first time she left it. The place she returned to more than once, afterwards. In search of what? She was never sure. Something. A feeling, maybe, that wrapped itself around her like kelp around kicking ankles - relentless, anchoring, tempting to something deeper.
In the beginning, she succumbed to it; its familiarity, and alluring rose-glow. Would return to the place again. Curl up inside of it. But time would pass and she would grow used to it. Bored of it. Then leave once more for open water, and from the distance of the shore look back to the footprints she left there, crane her neck for one last glimpse, thinking ‘it will stay the same as I left it; places don’t change much, it’s the feelings in them that do’.
Only later would she learn the truth in that. The weight of it.
Something I’m learning as time goes on and I wander forward, leaving more and more traces of myself in the wake behind me is that – in the end – when we remember things, we really only remember the good in them.
Rose-tinted fondness they’d say to me - warm, pitying, as if they had been there before, knew the feeling.
But isn’t it a blessing?
That through the ups, the downs, the high waters that toss us around on life’s open ocean, we look back and without intention, we see more beauty than we do pain.
I know Nostalgia well enough now.
We’ve seen ourselves here many times before, settled across the table from one another as I stare wistfully into a wine glass, its swirling eddies reflecting stories - the most tender moments - of all the lives I have lived.
And perhaps I’m growing wiser, or maybe I’m simply growing used to it, but I no longer run full steam ahead in the opposite direction, dive down into the watery depths that beckon, back toward all that once made my heart sing when the present isn’t as pretty as I’d like it to be and the rose-glow of the past is far more enticing.
Because isn’t the grass always greener?
Don’t we add details in to fill those that time has sent missing? Or that our minds would rather skip over, forget?
And isn’t it so, that in years to come, this very moment – the one I’m living in – may well be the story played back to me as nostalgia pays a visit in my more vulnerable moments once again.
But this is how life escapes us.
So captivated by what was, or the possibility of what could be, all that is slips by without us even realising - slips, like sand in an up-ended hourglass, through the cracks between our fingers.
I like my stories.
I build my life from them.
So would it be lying if I said there weren’t still moments in which I’m sent back to places of the past, allowing myself to get lost in them? The cool scent of mid autumn; the pinkish hue of dusk on bedsheets; the waxy, farmish smell of a worn brown coat… Probably. But the difference is I don’t stay so long, anymore.
For Life beckons me, says we have been here before, you know how this ends as it waits patiently ahead with an outstretched hand. And I listen, believe it. For I know there are treasures waiting; places yet to be visited, feelings yet to be felt.
So I wander on. But I keep them, the memories I like to crawl inside of, and their warm comfortable glow. I keep them, like shells and driftwood collected after a high tide, tucked away in the corner of a coat pocket.
Left to come back to later.
Oh, I remember… wasn’t it good… wasn’t it good… wasn’t it good…