I heard this phrase used recently, after the speaker described the experience of first real heartbreak and the utter disbelief at the way things had turned out. At the time, the phrase made me laugh a little, but since hearing it, I’ve been unable to get it out of my head.
I’ve been trying to remember what my moment of ‘back when the world was perfect’ was.
My siblings and I joked for many years that our parents divorce was the nastiest divorce in recorded history. Truthfully, though, it wasn’t the divorce that was so bad, it was the separation/reconciliation/vicious fight/separation/vicious fight/reconciliation/divorce. My dad had a violent temper, so there was never a fight that didn’t end with something needed to be replaced or repaired, walls were punched, doors kicked in, lamps thrown, and my personal favorite the night he pushed my mom backwards into a closet door and the door, my mom and my dad collapsed in a heap inside the closet. After the crash that sounded like the end of the world to my 8 year old ears, I heard my mother, calmly and reasonably ask “Well, are we going to talk about this or are you going to kill me, Roger?”
It’s a moment that has stayed with me, for sure, I remember sitting at the top of the stairs, wearing yellow pajamas and holding our golden retriever without a tail by the collar. I remember being scared and crying. Maybe when you’re 8, the world is moving too fast or maybe you don’t even think the world is perfect at that age, because the world is so small when you’re 8, and it doesn’t feel like you control anything.
I remember watching the taillights of my dad’s brown Toyota Celica as he made the left off Bing Court and onto Hayfield Road.
It’s a perfectly clear and perfectly awful memory, but it’s not the memory I’m looking for.
A few months after my brother died, I remember walking around in a grocery store I didn’t normally frequent, and being unable to find skim milk. I haven’t any real idea about why the bloody skim milk became so important, I just knew that it was, and not finding it felt like just one more thing I couldn’t do ‘right’ without Mark. I couldn’t even buy fucking milk. In that moment, I dissolved into a puddle of tears, sobs really. I’m not one for crying in public, so the combination of crying so violently, and the mortification of doing so in a grocery store, was six kinds of horrifying for me. I put down my basket and fled the store.
There was some realization then, that what was ahead was nothing like what I had imagined and nothing like what I wanted, and nothing like it was supposed to be, dammit. Now, I had to re-figure everything.
It felt like trying to solve for X without X actually being in the equation.
My ‘back when the world was perfect’ was the life I saw myself living as Mark’s baby sister. I could live with all my mistakes, my stupid decisions, the trouble my big-smart-ass-mouth got me into; if I saw it through his eyes, heard it through his ears. I could hear every fiber of my being screaming NOW WHAT?
‘Back when the world was perfect’ - I’ve turned this phrase around in my head almost non stop since I heard it. I feel it, the sadness in those words, more acutely than any I’ve heard in some time.
Is there a sense of recovery on the other side of that first real sense of loss? Is it really just never the same again?
I think I know the answer, and it makes me sadder still. I think you move past things, over things, around things, but they never really go back to the way things were... back when the world was perfect.