It was a time in our lives where we could feel ourselves dying by the second. It made us melodramatic and self-important. Time crawled over our skin with a magnetic charge so strong we could feel it in others around us. It drew us to each other. We waited. The anticipation weighed down every inch of us, like a squash-and-stretch cartoon figure the moment before it takes a giant leap in the air.
We could feel our youth expiring. Something about the air was already a little off. First it was the colors, the way the air felt across our skin. The autumn was no longer as nippy. The colors glowed a rich gold with the nostalgia of things past. It was as if, in our desperate desire to be wholly present in the here and now, we had somehow transported half of ourselves into the distant future, somewhere impossible and frightening. The present was becoming numbed under the engulfing sense of retrospection. The departed half was beckoning the remaining half of us at every moment, sending shivers of fear for the unknown down our spine and luring us with the comforting security of knowing. We resisted, though, because all we really wanted at that moment was to hit the pause button. What we would give to grow roots from our shoes right then and there in a courtyard somewhere so we could rest a while. Maybe we could grow into trees, the wizened ones, their trunks swelling with stories. Then the beating of our restless hearts would stop for a moment and the constant buzzing of the outside world would melt into an easy rhythm of stillness. But the energy bubbled inside of us and moved from our feet up to every inch of our body, penetrating our deepest recesses with restive motion.
Next it was the smells. My father always said that his favorite thing about coming home from a business trip was that first smell of home when he opened the door.
“It’s never a single smell that you can point out as another thing, Chi-chan,” he told me once when I asked what home smelled like. “If it smelled like kitsune udon, I could just go to a noodle shop and get the same smell, right? And it wouldn’t be the unique scent of home anymore. Home smells like home. That’s why it’s so special.” We discovered it for ourselves too, the smell of home. Except the door we opened to find that smell was not the one we had expected it to be. Suddenly it was right under our nose.
Somewhere along the line, home had become dusty dorm room entryways with a hint of metallic sourness, the sweet smell of old books, the wet bricks of stony courtyards after rain; wafts of warm fried smells from late night eateries, sweaty college parties, the faint smell of the night’s vices. The smells that had once served as distinct location markers around parts of the college town blended together into a perfumed concoction of familiarity. We roamed the streets on dimly lit rainy nights, silently collecting all the scents with every pore of our being. We pretended not to notice. Embarrassed at the intensity of our evoked emotions, we spoke of trivial things; that nervous small talk one does moments before a first kiss. Here too there was desperation, a sense of expiry and impermanence. We were running out of time. Yet there was something holding us back, like somehow if we sucked in too much air, the last scent particles of home would disappear into our nostrils and that would be the end of it.
We lived with reckless abandon. The sense of conclusion released us from any remaining cocoon of self-consciousness. Instead, we clung onto the magnetic draw that attracted us to each other with a force like our life depended on it. We drank experiences through each other’s lips; saw through the reflections in one another’s eyes. We were constantly in love. We saw each new encounter as a meet-cute with a new soul mate; each new place we visited became a potential future home. At the peak of our youth, the vertigo was overwhelming. Every moment reverberated with a presence that made us keenly aware of its imminent end. “To flourish is to fall. . . Like a passing dream in a night in spring.” With each passing moment, there was a profound sense of ephemerality. The pressure to celebrate, to experience every moment to the utmost was at times almost too much to handle. At times our sensations felt so strong they became insubstantial, intense anticipation for potentiality alone. At times like these, we would sit on our beds talking until the wee hours of the morning. Plastic cups filled with cheap wine and Sigur Ros playing softly in the background, we stayed with each other until everything felt alright again.
Each moment like this became a Polaroid snapshot, snuck into our coat pockets for safekeeping. A good luck charm. Defense Against the Dark Arts. Because at the end of the day, we knew that no matter where we each ended up, these moments would be our greatest nourishment for times to come. In the here and now, we were never alone. And for that moment, that was enough. Nothing else mattered.
Chihiro Isozaki is a senior at Yale studying literature and film. She enjoys talking in analogies, riding trains backwards, and eating ice cream in front of a fireplace on cold winter days.