Remembering the Little Things

I feel I was never able to forget anyone I’ve been with because each person has their own specific qualities. You can never replace anyone. What is lost is lost.

– “Before Sunset”

When relationships run their course, we cope in various ways. Some try to move forward quickly, which may result in severing ties and discarding physical evidence: letters, photographs, emails. They extinguish the past. They eradicate its significance. And that’s OK — that’s how they navigate through the pain.

Personally, I was never able to embrace that approach. I’m emotional, I attach easily, and I often view relationships through a nostalgic lens. I never wanted to forget that an individual affected my life to a certain degree. I never wanted to forget that we both existed in the same space at the same time. I’m not determined to erase memories from my mind, as if they never occurred. I hold onto the pieces and keep them, even if it’s locked away in a box, far removed from what once was. I seek closure, I move on, but I remember.

I remember:

  • the quirky banter that made me laugh endlessly
  • the subtleties and intricacies in mannerisms
  • the way the contour lines on his face formed a slight smile
  • the music and lyrics that were shared
  • the songs that were sung in public places when we were silly and carefree
  • random anecdotes from childhood
  • how his eyebrows moved in playful fashion when we finally spotted each other within the crowd
  • how his voice changed its tone when relaying excitement or sadness or depth
  • his hands on top of mine in the backseat of the car
  • the deliciously-scented cologne that I willingly breathed in
  • the simple truths that circulated between us.

If you’ve never seen “Before Sunset,” starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I highly recommend the film. Set in Paris, the narrative revolves around a couple who fostered an incredible connection in one night when they met on a train to Vienna. (That story is beautifully showcased in the first film, “Before Sunrise.”) “Before Sunset” features the two characters meeting once more, nine years later — needless to say, life happened and circumstances changed.

One of my favorite scenes depicts the notion that maybe we do miss the little things.

“You know, I think the book I wrote in a way was like building something, so that I wouldn’t forget the details of the time that we spent together,” Jesse told Celine. “Just as a reminder that once, we really did meet. This was real. This happened.”

“I’m happy you’re saying that,” she said. “I always feel like a freak because I’m never able to move on like this … people have an affair or entire relationships; they break up and they forget. They move on like they would have changed brands of cereals. I will miss the person and the most mundane things; like, I’m obsessed with little things. I see the little details that are so specific to each of them that move me, and that I miss. You could never replace anyone, ’cause everyone is made of such beautiful, specific details.”

When relationships shift or end, some try to remove the memories: from their computer, from their photo albums, from their mind. It’s a means to deal with the heartache and uncomfortable feelings. It’s a way to meander through the hurt.

And yet, I simply could never forget. I can process my emotions and move forward, but the past does not vanish — the little things do not disappear. We may remember them and it’s OK. It’s OK to remember.