Before My Eyes
The professor droned. And by droned, I means he spent five minutes explaining how to interpret the axes of a graph in her black-and-white Powerpoint presentation. I realized I had written nothing for the entire lecture and had almost chewed clean through the arm of my glasses. Why is it that I didn’t care?
Perhaps it was her method of teaching - she sometimes forgot what she put in her own presentations, interrupting the class with more than her usual minute-long pause of confusion, and adding in its place, “whoa, that’s not right, why is that there?”
I truly despise dendrology. And by the middle of the class, I realized that I hated my entire field of study, but not the material: the reason.
Unlike the material, which to me is genuinely fascinating, I don’t like learning it for no apparent reason. I feel like we’re being pumped chock-full of information… simply to move on and be pumped full of more information.
I love people; well, don’t get me started on how ridiculously I actually dislike people. What I like is the idea of sharing ideas, knowledge, and information with people. That’s not what university is for. It is counterintuitively designed to fill you up with information you will forget as soon as you take the test.
Brian walked into the class after the professor left, handing out the course evaluation forms. Handing them out, I continued to think about what had just infected my brain with hate for my current education. I had chosen this program because it interested me. I hadn’t thought whether the outcome interested me. I was always told, “Study what you like, not what gets you money, that will garner the best results.”
Does this teacher come to class fully prepared for lessons? Strongly Disagree.
I filled in about 90% of the bubbles with “strongly disagree.” I couldn’t stand the course. Then again, I can’t stand the program.
I realized why I truly hate it so much: I wasn’t contributing to anything whatsoever. Nothing I did in there felt like it would amount to anything that would be useful. I have no interest in working for a lumber company or even a conservation organization. I want to be one-on-one with individuals or people, teaching them, educating - broadening their perspective of the world and informing them. Instead, I was sitting in a classroom forgetting material.
Before my eyes, I saw everything shift - everything. Not just one little bit of my opinion of education, everything. I understand that some people are content learning things to use on their own or in small groups, but I want to be learning things to share. Everything crumbled, and it’s time to start from the bottom and build back up to the top. I’ve possibly wasted a year of my education on this program for people who want to work in business. I don’t want to. I want to work with kids, people who want to learn, people who ask questions and genuinely want answers.
And won’t just forget them.
And the hardest part is.
“I know you like going for walks in the rain… so let’s go for a walk… since it’s raining. Alright, sweetheart?”
She put on her pink and yellow raincoat, I my blue and grey hiking jacket that has been to three continents and five countries. We went out the back door and stepped into the alleyway between the row of townhouses that hers was a part of. Her mum told us not to be too long; dinner was almost ready.
Suddenly, I’m all alone. I’m standing in the rain, wearing the jacket, looking up at the hazy grey sky, with lines of mysterious sunlight barely showing through the thinner parts of the weather. It’s early evening, and the raindrops are showing quite clearly under the streetlight. My friend opens the door; I hear a Beatles song playing inside the house.
“How was the movie?”
My father started the car; my sister’s car, actually. She hated it when he drove that car. The rain fell like strings in the headlights as we headed down the steep hill towards the Fraser River.
“Wasn’t really all that great. I wouldn’t recommend watching it.” I thought about the evening.
A month later I got on a plane to Beijing with a feeling of absolute resolution, having discarded the most dysfunctional and manipulative relationship I had been in. Still, many good memories were there – and it was the person I missed, it was the experience. The company. The commitment, the feeling of knowing that someone is there for you.
“A rainbow!” she excitedly pointed out over the Nicomekl Valley, towards the airport, where a vivid spectrum of colour seemingly unfolded out of the railway tracks. “Isn’t it pretty?”
“Absolutely. Not so much as you, though.” Perhaps one of the dumbest things I have ever said, but to me, and I hope that to her, it meant everything. I left go of her hand and ran like a maniac across the empty triangular intersection. She giggled.
“I wish I could be with you every day… like this… just right beside me.” I put down my book – At Home, by Bill Bryson. I looked up at her – beautiful red hair, glistening green eyes, adorable smile. “It feels – normal.” She put down her artwork and gave me a kiss.
“Hey kids… having fun?” Her dad came out of house onto the back porch, still covered in sawdust from work. “How about a walk around Ferguson lake?”
“You realize we were sitting on that windowsill six hours before the entire building burned down?”
We looked at the news report online together, the IGA in Fort Langley had burned to the ground.
“You look incredibly silly… your hair is soaked. Maybe you should put on your hood.”
“Do you like it… is it cute?”
“Then it’s staying down.”
The Lions Gate Bridge was all but obscured by the typical downpour of Downtown Vancouver. It was cold, soaked and completely out of my mind… my first date in over a year. A real date. My hand wasn’t cold; her hand wasn’t either – at least not that I know of. We shared our first kiss a week and a half later, right at school.
“The reason… is because I like you too.” Her concert started in only a short time. I couldn’t even react…
The summer air was warm and I just awkwardly stood on the sidewalk in front of her. The adorable eyes looking at me, we had been outside for a long while, walking and talking – neither of us were very skilled at either of those activities.
“I have to change for the concert.”
“That one was amazing! Whoa!” Another meteor slid across the speckled midnight sky. The dew was starting to fall.
“I think that makes about twenty, right?”
“Yeah, something like that.” She wrapped her arms around me. We shared one pillow.
“Don’t ever say those kinds of things about my father!” Her tone explained it all – my concern was disregarded and misinterpreted as an insult.
“I just don’t feel safe being driven after the driver has had a drink.”
“It’s one drink! Look, I don’t even think I can keep talking to you right now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” The phone hung up. Sleep was not something in high supply that evening.
“Hey Colin, you should come up to Prince George this Summer – that would be a blast. And you should bring your violin.”
“I don’t know… I’d love to… but I’d have to ask my parents.”
“Where is the bus?” The busy man behind the counter at the Greyhound depot in One Hundred Mile House was sorting packages.
“There’s been an accident in the canyon, the bus will be late.” Two and a half hours, to be exact.
“I know this is a really bad time to say this… but I really like you. More than a friend. I know we are both getting on different planes for different parts of the country in a few hours. I just wanted to tell you that.”
“I like you too.”
“You know why you need to trust me? Because I love you. I love you a lot.”
“I love you too.” The words came out of my mouth barely audibly – and it was the first time I ever truly meant the words to a girl.
"I need space to think.” What was wrong? Why was she avoiding me? Two days earlier, I had seen her, brought her some notes I wrote while she was away sick, she seemed to love it… then she disappeared for the weekend.
“This may seem like a really strange question – but would you like to go on a date?”
I sat up straight in bed. My heart was pounding. I practically never had an adrenaline rush from a dream, only from anxiety triggered from noise. But this time it was different.
I checked my phone; four o’clock in the morning. I laid back down, stared at the ceiling. I couldn’t get any of the images out of my head. The shooting stars. The rainbow. The warm air outside the music school. The summer sun in the back yard. All blurring into one – but one what?
Not one memory – I wasn’t filled with the illusion that all these memories were of one ideal girlfriend, one ideal crush, one ideal fantasy. But they were all in the same part of my mine; the same part of my heart.
Twice in love. Once I didn’t even have the chance to show it truly and personally. A long distance relationship that didn’t work out.
It’s not the people I miss – in fact, one of them I still have as an incredible friend. It’s the feeling of knowing that I experienced emotions that could only be created by one specific person – and those emotions would never happen again. Ever.
I have a memory of what the emotions felt like. Not the emotions themselves. A memory of something like a vacation, a hike, a view that you’ll never forget
- those are the kinds of memories where you can close your eyes and relive them – and it doesn’t hurt.
Living through an emotional memory like that, however, hurts.
I close my eyes again, and wake up around seven o’clock. I got right up. I was going into memory-mode, where I have practically no interest in the present and what’s happening right now, only what has happened and what I’ve experienced in the past. Over the years, I’ve learned the remedy for that is essentially sensory overload.
Blasting Should I Care, I drove out onto Highway 1, heading east, for Shuswap Lake.
Today, however, fate was not on my side. As I arrived at Shuswap Lake, memories of one girl filled my mind. My remedy failed. Everything broke.
I got home and went for a walk in the park. Suddenly, it required almost no trigger to bring back memories close to my heart.
I drove home, walked in the door, went to my room, sat down on my bed, and cried.
I haven’t quite come to peace with the fact that happiness becomes sorrow as it passes.
And that’s the hardest part.