Here’s the thing about pivotal moments: most of the time they’re nearly impossible to identify until seen in hindsight. This past year has been comprised of a series of such moments, and sure enough, I’m only seeing that now. Now is a moment I would trade for many that have already passed. Now I keep thinking back to the times – not that long ago – when things were different.
“Okay, my turn.” I insisted, still giggling. I reached for the bottle of sunblock, which rested between us on the small table, nestled deeply into the white, soft sand. Despite the ocean’s salty breeze, the sun felt sweltering that day, and I could feel my fair skin sizzling in the heat.
“Oh, it’s a game now, is it?” He raised his eyebrows, feigning surprise. As he said this he drew a long drink from his Corona, the bottle’s condensation glistening in the sunlight.
“I’m sorry, are you too busy to play games?” I asked this sardonically. Squirting the hot cream into my hands, the liquid dripping between my fingers, I began to rub it on my pinkish thighs; I was definitely burning. Accepting this fact, I plopped backwards onto the lounge chair and surrendered to the sun.
“You know,” he began, looking at me seriously. “I do have an appointment at three.”
Turning my head, I gave him a measured look, trying my hardest to suppress the smile that seemed to permanently reside on my face whenever I was with him.
“Are you referring to the appointment with the masseuse, by chance?” I barbed playfully.
We looked at each other, dead in the eyes, a competition as to who would break into laughter first. To a bystander, it would have been considered a draw.
“Vacation is the best,” he sighed, his laughter tapering off. The pungent and oh-so-familiar scent of truffles filled the air as our waiter approached us with our order of mini sliders and truffle fries.
“Uh huh.” I agreed, eyeing the food. From my previously prostrate position, I propped myself up with my elbows, skin peeling off from the mesh of the lounge chair, so that I could pop a fry into my mouth and take a drink from my diluted daiquiri.
“Now,” I began, returning my drink to the table, “going back to our little game – which I happen to know you have time for – here’s my question: if you could find out how you’re going to die, would you?”
“Hm,” Pensively, he narrowed his eyes and paused before responding, “never.” He said this definitively. “Isn’t there an English expression,” he purred in his soft accent, “that ignorance is bliss?”
I nodded my head once in affirmation. Swinging his legs off of his lounger so that he sat facing me, he asked, “Okay, what about you? Would you want to know?”
For the life of me, I can’t remember my answer. But that’s often how it is, when you’re remembering someone, isn’t it? The point isn’t to remember you, but to remember that individual, even though - no matter how detailed the memory - it’s never a satisfactory substitution for the absent person’s presence. Yet today I wish I could remember my response. Maybe that’s because I’m almost certain I know how I’m going to die. It should be noted that by the time I went on that vacation things had already begun to change, although now hadn’t yet happened. The majority of my life, although not particularly remarkable, felt safe. I was safe.
And now, I’m not.