For the first time in forever, I went to a café. Going to a café is a very normal thing to do but even normal things become thrilling when you haven’t experienced them in a while. Sitting at that little table, I felt like an old person revisiting a childhood home or looking through photo albums and reliving distant memories. Things came back; I remembered.
Remembering is both a blessing and a curse. There is pain in remembering but there is also joy. I want to forget certain people, places, and feelings. But there are people, places, and feelings I remember and long for, yearning for their return with a wistfulness as plaintive as a saxophone solo in a dimly lit bar.
I am old enough to remember the good ol’ days. The days where it was normal to sit in cafés and hug people and wear lipstick without having it smear against the cloth of a mask. The days of crowded buses and deciding what outfit to wear to work. Thinking about what life was like pre-Covid is taking out a neat little box full of polaroid pictures and ticket stubs and handwritten notes. Everything about the past seems precious and worth hanging onto, all the more so because there is a fear and a real possibility that life won’t ever return to the way it used to be.
In some ways, the passing of time is irrelevant. A lot can happen in a month and a whole year can go by without anything changing at all. In this case, the world is different than it was a year ago and I am different too. So was my experience at the café. We all had to enter wearing a mask, and use hand sanitizer at the door, and tell the staff if we needed to use the toilet so that they could make sure it was properly sanitized. Remembering the way things used to be makes the present feel somehow even more strange, like we are all actors in a play and though the scene bears a resemblance to reality, there’s no way it could possibly be real.
The miracle is that even though things are different than the way we remember them, here we are anyway: adapting, carrying on, trying, and making the most of the present in whatever way we can.