Once upon a time — wait, no. This is real life. Let’s start again.
The one that got away. What a great catch. These sentences are fishing metaphors. They also, when girls I know tell me love stories that have these as the plot lines, seem to be magical, romantic, mysterious, beautiful. What could have been. If these phrases were movies we’d see soft sunny filtered images of smiling beautiful people in fields of flowers. But no story is one sentence long. Only distorted memories begin with Once upon a time…
The one that got away is a complicated tale. Maybe “one” is actually many. Maybe this isn’t even a Rom-Com. Maybe the one is someone’s father. Maybe it’s someone’s dream.
I love people because they are so complicated. If you dig deep enough everyone has a story; everyone is still writing it as they go along, just like me. Just like you. Good stories are always complicated. Good stories are hard to tell. Good stories get sliced into tiny pieces and boiled down to What could have been so we can try to share our stories with other people. We use words and we use pictures. We have Instagram (that comes with the soft sunny filter), and we have Polaroids of our grandmothers when they were young.
Our stories will always be incomplete. Memories fade or change so that every morning we are remembering and living a slightly different life. The people we love die or fade out of our lives in different ways, and the houses and cities we grew up in get torn down or repainted, or they stay exactly the same and our memories of them change so they end up feeling different just the same.
I have a Polaroid picture of my grandmother. She is not young in the picture, but I am. We are sitting together on the steps of her back porch some sunny Spring day in the early ’90s, a bright green apple in my hand and a grin on my face. I do not remember this story. My grandmother died when I was four. But luckily there are more pictures, more sentences from the story of her life.
Loving people and their stories is dangerous, of course. It’s not romantic or mysterious, though sometimes it seems magical, and often it is beautiful, at least for some of the time. People are like our memories, in a way. They change unexpectedly, they surprise you, they make you cry. The worst thing of all is when someone abruptly leaves your life when you were still writing your life stories together — cliffhanger forever. And if you don’t fully understand that person’s story, and your own story is still uncertain, how do you tell someone else about it, even if they care to listen?
The (other) one that got away.