I began writing this post in a dream.
I was 1,000 miles from home and visiting a college bookstore when I suddenly ran into my childhood friend, Allison, my best friend from about ages 6-12 before I moved away. I was somehow traveling backwards through time. I didn't ask how -- dreams are funny like that. I just knew it was happening.
She was young and beautiful in my dream, a sophomore in college. She was with her boyfriend who I knew would soon become her husband.
I watched her peruse through merchandise and pick up party lights."Ah," I thought. "You were not yet dead." She didn't know that two years from then she'd be gone, a victim of childbirth gone terribly wrong.
I went over and talked to her in my dream, wanting so badly to hold onto our conversation, the connection. Outwardly it seemed light, airy. We laughed together. I winced inside. She couldn't possibly know or understand that her foreshadowed death rattled around in my innards like a broken bottle, that I needed to double over and wrap my arms around myself to hold in the pieces that were coming apart.
One of the tiny lightbulbs dropped on the floor and bounced but did not break. I bent over to pick it up and thought, "Is this what it's like when you travel back in time to spend an instance with someone?" I thought. "Consumed only with when you would lose them, unable to fully enjoy the moment?"
I wanted to cry great racking sobs for the future as I knew how it would play out. I felt shorted. I went back to see her -- worked so hard for this moment -- and yet even then could not bring back the innocence that existed before I knew the pain of her loss.
We continued our light banter. I swallowed more glass. I found her a sweater she could wear on her way home. There was some comfort in giving her that, on that last occasion that I would see her. And we parted. She bought her party supplies. I watched her fade and slowly became conscious that I was dreaming. That's when I began writing this post in my head.
I woke up thinking of her and of all the other losses in my life I would know one day. How I'd be forever changed by each one, bent and gnarled like a charred, twisted oak, scarred by countless storms and fires.
Maybe this is the thing that makes us old. Loss. Because it robs us of our innocence that the world will stay as we know it.