I used to be a nostalgic person.

Good god. I love that sentence. For more reasons than one.

It just a few years ago when I furiously scribbled in a notebook about how special I felt the night I wore a swirly boatneck tank and Eric told me, breathless, “You look amazing.” For years, I hung onto a piece of torn neon green paper to remember when Jon taught me to play cribbage while we drank mint juleps at the rented cottage. My heart gets a little sore whenever I listen to disco, because I remember the nights I spent dancing and kissing Bill between sets.

I feel like I’m not investing as deeply into my life right now. Maybe it’s because I’m not forging memories with somebody right now. Maybe it’s because for the first time in my adult life, I’m doing this all on my own. At the moment, I have no perspective on my immediate life, not that it’s possible anyway. But even back when Eric and I lied on our stomachs, watching the rain in the streetlights, I knew I was experiencing a moment I would remember forever. I don’t ache to solidify moments anymore.

My moments are an endless series of facades – like I’m just passing by it all. Life has turned into a collection of muted repeats – the same drive to work, the same cubicle, the same empty bed at night. Weekends offer a bit of variation, giving me glimpses of striking honesty and glee with my friends. Where are the moments that I’ll be able to look back five years from now and tell what temperature it was, what song was playing, how my mouth tasted, or what sounds were echoing off the streets?

I think this is part of growing up. Though the moments I described above happened in the same order, the vividness of the memories is reversed. It was late evening and Eric’s bedroom was filled with this cool amber light. He rarely turned a fan on because he said it made it warmer, so my face was damp with perspiration. The neighbors across the street were talking loudly, but it all seemed to fade out when he looked at me that way. Later that night, Eric would give me a copy of Wuthering Heights and we’d spend twenty minutes saying goodbye, stopping to kiss on the stairs, in the dining room, in the living room, and on the porch.

I know that Jon crushed the mint leaves and the whiskey made me shudder. The windows were open and the air was steady with the hum of boat motors. His breath smelt lightly of cigarette smoke as he jotted notes on the piece of paper he had found in a drawer. We went to bed early, he played sudoku while I read a book – Anna Karenina, I think. The next morning, he brought me coffee and we ate powdered donuts and did a few games of sudoku in bed before we went on a hike.

Bill is different. He played so many gigs that most of them blend into one. I would either go to the bar with him to set up, or I’d go later on, joining a friend on the dance floor. I liked to watch him play – he always seemed so focused on the music that I was surprised when he would catch my eye and grin. At the end of the set, he would walk over to wherever I was sitting and give me a hug that stunk lightly of sweat, polyester, and the Dolce & Gabanna cologne we picked out together. I remember feeling this strange sensation – a mix of excitement, affection, and pride – when he came over. I felt most at home when his arm was around me, but my favorite part of the night was after we had loaded his drums into my car, when we finally slipped into my twin-sized bed, our bodies laced together, and slept until 11 the next morning.

The memories are all still there and to illustrate them, I obviously have to fabricate some details, but it’s easiest with Eric and hardest with Bill. Maybe it was the length of the relationships – it’s harder to process two years than three months. Maybe my my brain chemistry was different at 18 than at 23. Maybe it’s self-preservation; I’ve become hardened and have subconsciously decided that shallow memories will hurt less than visceral ones.

I think romance just lends itself to nostalgia. While I’m actually very happy to be writing two nights in a row, it doesn’t make for a very memorable night. Maybe someday I’ll hear an Alison Krauss song and remember when I lit candles and popped off the cap of a hard cider before opening my laptop. And maybe I’ll be filled with a warm contentedness when I remember my apartment smelling like a late autumn rain and a peppermint candle.

For now though, this dreary weather and melancholy music just makes me think of times before. Not in a way that makes me depressed, mind you. I’m appreciative. I’m glad to have such charming moments to recall.

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8 thoughts on “I used to be a nostalgic person.

  1. I know how you feel. The mid to late twenties as a single person is awkward in a brand new sort of way. I think we are learning to be comfortable in our own skin and with solitude without having to have someone to feel happy. Maybe that will make for better wiser decisions in future relationships? I like to hope so.

  2. This is such a true, well-written post, but the thing about nostalgia is I don’t really think you notice it when you’re looking for it. I think the more think about what memories you have, the less specific or descriptive they are. That’s kind of how memories are. I think they’re most palpable when you’re sitting at home watching TV and something suddenly remembers you of “that one time.”

    • That’s it exactly, Katie! Over the days leading up to this post, I had several things remind me vividly of moments past (happily enough, with the above mentioned ex-boyfriends), and that’s what I was mulling over. I think I just feel like I used to be engaged so much more deeply with the emotions of a moment, and that’s what I’m struggling with now – feeling like I’m unable to experience such strong emotional ties when I’m making memories.

  3. What a wonderful post. I think the moments are always there, but at different times of our lives, we’re just a bit less “aware” of them. You sound like you have an uncanny awareness of various situations and circumstances. Those circumstances might seem mundane today, but someday something will trigger a thought and these moments will end up being special too, just in a different way (if that makes sense).

    • Thank you so much!

      I’m really hoping that these things will seem special down the line. I think it’s necessary to have time and space to really digest and appreciate a moment. Hindsight is fantastic.

  4. No post about nostalgia is complete without a quotation by Garcia-Marquez:

    “He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past. But when he stood at the railing of the ship… only then did he understand to what extent he had been an easy vicitim to the charitible deceptions of nostalgia.”

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