Maybe it was because I woke up yesterday morning and it was a rainy day. Maybe I thought about it because I'm talking about beginnings and endings this month or maybe it's just something that always lurks at the back of my mind and pops up when I'm least expecting it.
We all have those moments. The ones where we stop feeling immortal and start feeling human; frail and subject to the whims of fate, disease and accident.
Mine happened when I was twenty-two or vingt-deux ans (as I think of it) because I was living in Paris at the time.
Paris felt like a playground to me. A giant glittering campus full of art, food and exotica. I took risks and made ill-advised choices because I was vingt-deux ans and basically immortal. Then one morning, during a transatlantic telephone call with a friend, I found out another friend was gone.
Not dead, not killed by drunk drivers or premature disease. Just gone. Disappeared. The police were looking for her. There was a statewide search in progress but she'd been gone for three weeks.
Her car was found. The keys to it were in her purse which was still in her car. The only thing of value that was missing was my friend Katie.
Except she didn't. Instead, the world took her. And for me that was the end.
It was the end of the innocence that had allowed me to skip home by myself through Parisian streets at 4:00 in the morning. I stopped believing I was immune and immortal because if the world could be so capricious as to take my friend Katie then there was nothing to stop it from taking me too. It was a simple matter of self-preservation and grief.
Now that I have children of my own I often think about their innocence. It's a delicate line I walk. Part of me wants to preserve them just the way they are, carefree and insouciant, and part of me wants to wake them up. I have the urge to frighten them into wariness and streetsmarts by oversharing gory details of what takes place in this world of ours.
This isn't one of those posts where I have an answer or am searching for solutions. It's just a recitation of facts. At one time we're all innocent. If we're lucky we get to live long enough to lose that innocence. We don't always think of this as a gift but it is. It's the gift of experience and life.
My friend Katie was never found. She's gone and what's left behind are the hearts that ache in her absence. She lost more than her innocence. She lost everything. This is the kind of knowledge that, all these years later, still haunts me on rainy summer mornings.