He stared at the open palm of his left hand for a long time. That ten-year-old girl grasped this hand and hugely changed something inside me, but I can’t give a reasonable explanation of how such a thing could have happened. Still the two of us understood each other and accepted each other in a very natural way in every last particular–almost miraculously so. Such things don’t happen all that often in this life. For some people, they might never happen.
H. Murakami, 1Q84, p. 523-524
Five years ago, for my birthday, I bought myself a ring. I stumbled on it in a tiny jewelry shop in Lisbon. It has several thin, intertwining threads of metal, organically irregular in thickness, with a few small diamonds caught in the spaces where the threads cross. When I saw it, I immediately thought of the ways our paths and lives cross others’ all the time bringing us shining moments of connection. I asked to look at this one-of-a-kind piece and it fit me perfectly, as did the metaphor.
The other day, a friend from my teenage years popped online and said hello. Back in 1989, in an unusual and romantic setting, we had one of those innocent, exciting Summer romances that come with sheltered adolescence and naivete. We had only been vaguely in touch the past couple of years, via FaceBook, after two decades of no contact.
He asked me if I remembered a particular day…when it started to pour while we were swimming in the harbor and we huddled together under the dock to avoid the enormous tropical raindrops which were cold compared to the warm sea water. He said he would never forget that day, that it had stayed with him all these years. “It was beautiful…,” he wrote, “…its funny how that never happens now.”
The conversation touched me and it was more than nostalgia. I happen to be reading Murakami’s latest book, which I received (in hardcover, no less) as a Christmas gift. One of the main story lines is about the pair in the quote above, the pure and unrequited love they carry throughout their lives. As my friend described his memories, his experience of that moment that so resonated with mine, it was hard not to draw a parallel with the fantastical fictional world of the novel I am reading.
It has me thinking of how, most of the time, when those diamond moments occur, we have no idea if the other person shared that experience. In those moments, for me at least, it doesn’t even register as possible that my presence, my small action, my taking the hand of another, could create and impart something they might hod dear.
Too often, I don’t even realize the value of the moment until later, when I pull it out with the leftover change of the latest journey and find, mixed in with the lint and metro stubs, a sparkling gem. These I treasure, imagining that I am the only one who carried the moment away in my pocket.
Every great once in a while, usually when a friend is up too late at night on the other side of the world, probably more than a little drunk, I get a glimpse of something like this and it makes my heart ache a little. If we could know those moments truly when they come, if we could recognize rare magic and give it its proper place, what would our lives be like?
And what price do we pay when we don’t? That thought brings to mind another Murakami piece but I’ll leave my reflections on that one for another post.