There I am...right there!…standing on the left wing of a bright yellow U.S. Navy SN-J trainer (number 233) in my brown one-piece flight suit, watching a sailor in a whitehat and blue workshirt with the sleeves rolled up fill the plane’s tank with aviation fuel. When he’s done, I bend down to put the cap on the tank, then climb into the cockpit. My instructor joins me, sitting in the seat behind me. I start the engine, taxi down the runway, and the buddy to whom I’d given my camera catches me taking off.
And there I am…right there!…see?…in my dress blues standing under a row of bougainvillea in downtown Pensacola, hands on hips, staring into the camera.
And there, wrapped in a towel with my NavCad friend Harry Harrison on Pensacola Beach. We went out for pizza and beer later, and the jukebox was playing “Unchained Melody” and to this day I cannot hear that song without being there again.
And I had absolutely no idea, at the instant those films were shot, of what I would be doing twenty minutes from that time, let alone that I would be watching them 56 years later with a sense of longing so palpable my chest actually aches.
The occasion for this almost dizzying tidal wave of nostalgia was the viewing of a DVD I just had made from a VCR, which was in turn taken from 8 mm movies of my time in the Navy. And the longing is mixed with the agony of the fact that I did not realize at the time just how beautiful (relatively, of course) I was, or that I would not always be so young.
I don’t think I have ever met anyone more obsessed with time than I. It’s inexplicable, really and the fact that I truly believe that every nanosecond of time is still there, somewhere, and that we relive them time after time after time, on some endless cosmic loop. So that should give me comfort. But it doesn’t. I want to be there on the wing of that plane, and under that bougainvillea and on that beach with Harry NOW!The fact that I am, somewhere, doesn’t help me at this instant.
A recent blog entry centered on the Seven Deadly Sins, and right now I am totally consumed with Greed…greed for what I once had and no longer have; a greed so consuming that even the belief that time is constantly repeating doesn’t help.
It’s sort of like being on a roller coaster ride. Even knowing that I will be riding the same coaster again and again throughout eternity doesn’t prevent me from being aware that this ride is inexorably coming to an end. I don’t want it to end but I am not quite so foolish as to think that stomping my feet and pouting will push that end one inch or one second further ahead than it is fated to be.
Though I know full well I won’t, I’ll just have to learn to settle back, enjoy however much of the ride remains to me, and know that somewhere, sometime, somehow, I am stepping yet again onto this roller coaster just as I stepped onto the wing of that plane so very many years ago.
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