I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more
--What My Lips Have Kissed, by Edna St. Vincent-Millay
He stepped out of the harsh light of the embassy's porch lights, and into the slushy Manhattan February.
There was an ugly and uncertain precipitation pouring out of the sky, it seemed to be wavering between snow and hail, vacillating between each option, choosing to exhibit the worst of either weather. It stung as it hit your cheek; and it clung to your coat and bones with shrill fingers of cold. Whatever it was, it was utterly miserable and disgusting.
He had left his umbrella under his desk. Should he return to get it...? Ugh, it is such a process getting back up to the fortieth floor. Such a struggle. It took altogether too much effort. It really seemed to be a disproportionate amount of effort for such a small thing as an umbrella.
He was just going to have to rough it.
So he forged out into the muddy and moist twilight. The sidewalks were less like sidewalks and more like large, salty seas of slushy brine, beginning to solidify, in the cold night air, into frozen trenches of ice.
He slipped on a crunchy slide of ice, but caught himself, before he hit the pavement and disaster struck. Surreptitiously, he glanced around to see if anyone had seem him almost bite the dust. Thankfully, a casual glance assured him that no one had.
He hit a glazing of ice off the iron fence, and as he wandered, the sleet pouring down from the sky distracted him from properly enjoying his retreat into himself. His reverie was interrupted by the sharp little frozen raindrops pelted down from the sky. Too sharp and coarse to be snowflakes, these little pieces of hail were like sharp spitballs from the sky.
This was not good thinking weather. It was definitely not good thinking weather. This was the sort of weather in which you stop all thoughts in your hurry to get out of the ugly outdoors and into somewhere warm. Whether a bagel shop, warm subway car, or the safe lights of home, the goal of everyone walking along the streets was to get off of the streets as fast as possible.
He wished he could remember the exact sequence of events as she had said good-bye to him in her choked and sorry voice. It was so long ago now. He wished he could remember what she looked like when she had smiled at him; that smile that could wash out a multitude of faults. That smile that made him forget to be angry at her, when she had absolutely, definitively merited anger. But he still wished he could remember what it looked like. Just because, to have forgotten those moments had barred him from their reality.
Escaping from his grasp, these events now existed in a world apart from himself; outside his memory, in the collective realm of the past, which was inaccessible to him. He no longer had such a strong claim on the story, because its memory had somehow faded in his mind. It had escaped from him, he felt.
And that's why he was out here, in the frozen, salty drizzle, because he had to find the events again. He had to turn the memory over and over in his mind, and see if, turning up each moment, if he could find again that vivid picture he knew those memories had once contained. Inevitably, he knew, the more he kept up this exercise, the less he could actually preserve his memories. The pictures in his mind would grow worn with each examination, like the pages of a well-loved book. The impressions they left upon his thoughts would be confused with the feelings of that day of the week, and the thoughts that had been rumbling around in his head that hour. That the memories would no longer be the pure impressions he had as a young man, but would become mixed in with the memories he had of the year after that, and the memories he was forging right now.
He knew, deep within his heart of hearts, that he had to let go of trying to remember the story. He stepped into a hidden puddle of salt water, cursed, and reminded himself to keep his eyes on the sidewalk. What is the use, he wondered, of trying to make sense of the past? A senseless exercise. If he kept looking back, he argued to himself, he would just grow blind. He would become obsessed with trying to interpret the story, to find it illuminated in the light of the present. But the more he tried this, the more his vision would fail--blocked by walls of rain and pillars of salt.