On Memorability

Once in a few years occurs a single, unforgettable night. Sometimes it’s filled with romance, and other times it’s just…a crazy night. I’ve had many of these over the years, but there’s one that I can’t forget…

I’d returned from Senegal a day before, my hair in kinky, bright blonde braids, my figure as svelte as ever, my spirit intact and particularly adventurous. I wanted to go to Boston that day; a singer I liked was signing posters at the Virgin Megastore (once Newbury Comics, now Best Buy), and just had to go. I remember arguing with my dad in the driveway about going on my own, but I ended up taking the commuter rail into the city.

I don’t remember much until I was at the store, and purchased a copy of the performer’s CD and a souvenir poster, then waited in line for an autograph. As it turned out, the boy in front of me was rather cute, and we ended up talking a lot. He asked about my braids; I told him I’d just gotten back from Senegal, he told me about his youth in Japan and his years in Hawai’i; this was his first time living on the mainland (though he was a US citizen). We got our posters signed and headed toward the train station together. With time to spare, he asked me if I wanted to grab dinner. We ate at Hooter’s (my first time), he paid. I was hooked.

A couple of weeks later, we went to Montreal together to see John Mayer (don’t laugh, it was 2002) in a small club. We had a good time, shared a room with two very separate beds, then returned home. I remember what I was wearing and I remember the hotel. I remember certain sights and I remember the concert. I have one photograph.

That same summer I had a lot going on. I drove to Poughkeepsie for the 4th of July to see a boy I’d met the semester before. I was working two jobs, making decent money, and hanging out with my hometown friends. And then one night, he called.

I don’t know what inspired it, but I agreed to meet him in Boston for a movie. I hopped onto the highway in my own car, drove the hour and a half, and met him at the movie theater. I remember the film, Minority Report, and I remember strange details; how bumpy the road was, the fact that we shared a large popcorn. After the film, I remember driving into downtown Boston in his clunky van with Hawa’ii plates, finally finding a spot on Newbury Street, hopping out, and walking around until we got tired. We got back in and drove around again, searching for a restaurant and finally settling on some all-night breakfast place. I ate blueberry-banana pancakes, he laughed at me, and I was happy.

Afterwards, he drove to a cemetery in Lynn and we sat talking for hours until the sun came up. I was tense; the attraction (for me, anyway) was palpable, but there was something about him that was untouchable, and I was 20 and virtually clueless. By the end of the night, I’d given up waiting. He drove me back to my car, and I drove home, stopping for Dunkin’ Donuts on the way. I got home and crashed, sleepy and satisfied.

We saw each other only one more time. It was a weekend in New York, but I wish I could pause time, change my mind, forget that. It’s unmemorable. What I want to remember is this huge city night, this night of anything, of this feeling of endlessness. I’ve only had it once or twice since. I can only imagine that it’s a rare phenomenon, something that happens a limited number of times in one’s life.

There have been a few more, of course, but both propriety and inhibitions change, and they become impossible to write about. I have this fear that there’s a finite number of those nights in a person’s life, something counted down, something we must resign ourselves to as we settle into predictability…or maybe not. Maybe we create them; maybe it’s our personalities that allow us to create memories like that, I don’t know. I can only hope for more.

4 replies on “On Memorability”

Those few and special unparalleled, rarefied experiences in life that remain indelibly etched in mind, but are never again to be matched tangibly or emotionally. Oh, how I wish those occasions would truly be endless. Yet, they are ephemeral and remain only a memory. I wish I had your ability to transcribe these phenomena to paper. Thanks so much for sharing.

Amazing what memories we hold onto as magical and cherish so dearly, while others just dissolve as if they never occurred. Time strengthens either way with equal abandon.
Lovely post, Jillian.

Did you ever see the Volkswagen commercial from about 7 or 8 years ago, from which Nick Drake’s long-buried song “Pink Moon” got a new lease on life? In the commercial, a group of friends drives out into the woods to a big party, only to find it’s not their scene, and instead they drive around all night together in the moonlight. Your post reminded me of the feeling I used to get watching that commercial – that there are some nights that are so magic that they are almost impossible to describe, and they are bittersweet when we try to do so. But those are the nights that keep us going when we sometimes wonder what this thing called life is all about. I am approaching mid-30s now, though, and I can tell you that those nights aren’t finite – maybe they get a little harder to come by, but if you surround yourself with people you love, the nights are still there:)

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