As a few of my closest friends and acquaintances have turned to Facebook recently to announce the death of their friends and family, I am overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia for my own past, but in a very different way than in the dreams I've described above. Perhaps, in the wake of the horrors that have unfolded this year, I am drawn to my former time, but in a sense more akin to reverie than to an affectionate reverence: the dream of a past I'd never wished to live out.
These snapshots of shared memory are neither a representation of who the person was, nor a reflection of who they were to me in the present. What I can think of is a sense of a shared world that existed before our ages. Each of us was their own universe: We each formed our own bodies and brought them to life as we came together. Our hopes, dreams, memories, and pain. And we each found our family, whether through blood or bonds of choice, and our separate homes.
To most of my friends, I'm the same person I was when I was fifteen. That might sound like an impossible thing to say given the intervening year, but I remember my birthday every year. I remember many of the good times and terrible times I had with friends. I remember the love and the magic of small moments. But I don't remember their family, the homes they lived in, their dreams, their needs. I remember their presence. Their fingerprints.
I remember that on my twentieth birthday I gave one of my friends a book. I didn't know it was about death then. I thought it was a story about a boy growing up and changing and the evil things he faced. I didn't know it was about him saying good-bye to a friend. I never read it to him, but I wrote him a note. It said, "This book was a present I made for you when I was fifteen. I'd like to give it to you on your twentieth birthday. Now, on your fifteenth birthday, I can say that I've done what I was supposed to do. I am now ready for the change that you must make. Congratulations, my friend. I love you."