This is my fading memory.
I remember the walls of graffiti as our car flew through the Bronx. It was another world that I never knew, but wished to understand. I always thought about what it would be like to live in a huge city. The busy life, the great presence of society, arts and culture, they all fascinated me. But they were only an afterthought in and out of our way to Long Island, NY.
The drives back were even more captivating. The path through Newark, NJ was full of industrial messes scattered across the landscape. It was crazy to see how many stories there must have been in that city.
And sometimes when we reached the regular forest landscapes that we were used to, it was hard to believe any of what I had seen even existed.
It happened even more with our trips to other places.
Coming home from beach vacations were always the worst. It would feel like paradise for that week, or weekend. But on the drives home, I would lose myself in the memories while staring out the window into the pools of blue peeking out from the clouds. The sun was just the same as when I was at the sea, but yet different. It was hard to imagine that it was the same sun that lit up my memories at the ocean. It never mattered which beach we went to; it was always the same afterwards.
And in the weeks leading away, when we were back in our normal lives, it began to become difficult to differentiate those memories with my own fantasies. Did it really happen? Or was it just in my mind?
The mind tends to only remember that good parts about vacations and trips. Those times are when our senses were heightened and we savored each moment of happiness. We remember how we felt when we were away from home.
Was the sky really that blue and clear on that open road in the desert? Did the mesas turn a charcoal black in the sunsets? Did it really feel like soaring through the sky as we drove through the canyons?
And we forget about the moments that made the trip “imperfect,” and therefore “tangible.”
But this happens also when we move from one place to another. We remember the good places we lived and we feel bittersweet in the fact that they don’t feel like they were ever reality at all, despite the fact that they were some of the hardest times of our lives.
The most terrible time I experienced this was when I came back from Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had left my husband there, my memories, all of my feelings. Everything was definitely ingrained into my mind during the three months I lived there. And when I returned home, I remember the deepest sinking depression. It was as if nothing I had experienced had been real. Nobody could relate to it. And worst of all, it was almost as if he wasn’t real either.
I would dream of wandering through the mountains in Chiang Mai. I would dream of strolling through the dusty streets in the summer heat. I would dream of the way the sun slowly faded behind the mountains and the cool breeze would rip through my skin as we rode through the city on the motorcycle. I would dream so vividly of the feelings, the aromas, the visuals and the tastes of Thailand.
It would hurt so much whenever I would awake.
Because I never knew, until each time I awoke, how much was slipping away from my memory.
I still long for those experiences I had in Thailand, and that was four years ago now.
Even now that I’ve moved here to Texas, I have bittersweet memories of my hometown in PA. And I know that it’s the same feeling as always setting in.
The feeling of Rückkehrunruhe.
n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut. (from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)