(The following is true and inspired by the above trailer for The End Again. Read more here.)
I’m obsessed with countdowns. I also know when that obsession started.
It happened the day I experienced the last 30 seconds of a persons life and I became fixated on each of those last seconds. I can’t even fully explain it, but for the last 14 years of my life, my mind has often drifted back to that night and those last seconds. Or even that day. The last day of a life you don’t know is ending. Was it mundane? What were you doing on the day that you died?
What happened with 12 hours left.
With 10 minutes.
I saw the last 30 seconds. In retrospect, they ticked by slowly. Each one lasting an hour as I watched the inevitable unfold. Since then, the moments leading up to the end tend to etch themselves into myriad possibilities in the bandwidth of my mind.
This also likely explains my fascination with the move Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind as Joel and Clementine spiral towards the moment of realization that his remaining memory of her – doubling as his first memory of her – is about to be eliminated from his consciousness and this convo ensued:
Clementine: This is it, Joel. It’s going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.
That convo really got to me. Only because its usually impossible to enjoy that last moment. It’s one thing to realize what you have when its gone; its another thing to realize what you’re losing while you watch it leave and there’s nothing you can do to stop the train.
Unless you can and you don’t. That is an amplified pain because two people get hurt at the same time. You hurt yourself and you hurt the other person. Hurt people hurt people. And scared money don’t make money. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and me and Mrs. Jones have danced this tango before as I’ve watched the end manifest with that last Uhaul box and that last shared memory walking over the threshold out into the world with a door closing behind it.
It starts somewhere. At some point, we commence with the beginning of the end. Is it a look? Is it a missed text? The stolen glance that never happened? The day that we forgot to kiss “hello” like we’d done every single day of our relationship before. Missing that first one makes the second easier, though no less noticeable. Habits are easy to create and harder to break. Pretty soon the “why not” becomes “why” and the pictures become reminders of what could be that isn’t anymore.
The arguments that used to end with moments of vulnerability as we both realized that what we stood to lose was greater than what we stood to gain by being “right” now rest in the air and linger. They linger until the next one, a little more passionate, a little more resolute, a little more pointed, a little more biting. You still sleep in the same bed but might as well be sleeping on different planets. Intimacy requires affection and that ship sailed the same path as the Titanic. The more time you spend together the less time you have left together.
Sadness and reflection. It’s inevitable. Unless you hate one another – and chance are you don’t if you can assume the same space at the same time – at some point you will both try to question what happened and why. That doesn’t mean there are answers, just questions for the ether. Momentary smiles that frustrate because you don’t know why you stopped smiling but the music stopped and nobody can find the beat. Or the melody. Or even a note.
With every article of clothing placed in a box the time left shrinks towards its conclusion. You both see it coming. We see it coming. Or saw. We watched the chaos become emptiness. The thing is, even with words never said, the time draws down. And when the lights shut off and its my turn to settle down, my main concern, promise that you will sing about me.
There’s something unsettling about the end. We all know that an end is coming. We have no delusions about that. But the moment the key gets placed on the counter and the look to find something else to do when there’s nothing more is the “it’s going to be gone soon” moment. It’s the end. Only the formality of the exit stands between the past you suddenly miss and the future you don’t want.
Love is a b*tch.
The final embrace, both everything and nothing at the same time. Years reduced to a gesture that can be shared amongst strangers.