I remember watching the presidential debates of 2016 with such fascination. I was brimming over with frustration at outrage at the antics of Donald Trump, the defensive platforms of Hillary Clinton, and the division of the country’s denizens who rose up to support one candidate or another or who chose not to be involved altogether. Then I remember the night of the election, sitting back and seeing Trump elected on a non-majority electoral vote, defying all predictions and polls, and going to bed with an empty spirit and a sinking heart.
I remember the hours leading up to the birth of my oldest son, the sheer drama of slow walks down the hospital hallway as Megan struggled to prepare for labor, navigating the advice from others on how to get the baby to come: try spicy foods, walk with one foot on the curb and the other on the road, sex, jump on the trampoline. And I remember holding him squealing and screaming little form in my hands for the first time and realizing with wonder that my entire world view could now be held in the palms of my hands.
I remember taking two full hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon my sophomore year of high school to write out my inner most secrets on lined paper, setting my homework aside for later. I wrote how selfish I was for continuing to notice handsome boys in my high school class when my mind should be on the things of God. I remember committing to God that I would be better, be stronger, and then ripping the paper to shreds so that no one would ever, ever find out.
I remember stepping on to a stage for the first time, finding confidence in front of an audience, abandoning my self-doubts and becoming, for a few blissful moments, into someone else. I remember capturing that essence through song later, and later still on paper, using my own truths to tell a story through words and songs and movements and phrases. I remember belonging there, outside my own skin.
I remember knocking on the doors, delivering the messages of Jesus Christ to the residents of poverty-stricken homes on the streets of Philadelphia, stepping over roaches and abandoned diapers and excrement and shattered glass to tap-tap-tap. I remember clutching the black books of God tightly in my hand with memorized speeches about how they had changed my life and brought me truth, truth that I could bring to them, if they followed the rules, gave up cigarettes, and paid ten per cent of all their earnings.
I remember lining up my action figures, He-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, arranging the heroes and villains in small rows, determining whose powers would work best together. I remember mounting rescue missions to save April O’Neil from the dank depths of Snake Mountain, and envisioning hordes of Foot Clan soldiers marching into Eternia. I remember waking the next morning with Orko in one hand and Baxter Stockman in the other.
I remember my first alcohol haze, in my mid-30s, learning how to pace myself and drink responsibly and enjoy the rich and delicious headiness of a good solid buzz, where the sounds and colors of the world pop and a smile spreads on my face and I just want to move my body for a time and be close to others. I remember the need for water and sleep that followed after, and the lesson learned the next morning about limits and the support of friends.
I remember sitting in the hot sun in my not-air-conditioned shoddy apartment as the seconds seemed to drone by. My toddler slept in one bed, my infant in another, and I knew in moments they would be awake and I had no idea how to fill the long afternoon hours as the temperatures soared to over 100 degrees. I remember wondering how long this impossible stretch of life would last, having so much to be happy about yet so little ability to enjoy it.
I remember standing on the front of the boat as it slowly trawled over the ocean. A light rain fell on me as the sun set over the glowing city of Seattle over the horizon. I leaned back against the hull, closed my eyes, and placed my palms out and forward as the world moved against me. I remember the gulls and the cold and the laughter and the salt, and I remember I knew perfection.
I remember putting fingers to keyboard, typing the title ‘Present in Past’, and then filling in the space below with my variable truths from my variable lives.