Some memories in life are so strong that when we remember them, we feel as though they are happening right there in that moment when we are recalling them. This may happen when you hold your child for the first time, or you are told you passed the BAR exam. Or it can be something more collective, like when you saw the new Dalai Lama for the first time, or seeing George W’s face on the news in that elementary school in 2001. We all have these moments, some public, some private. Some we share. Some we don’t. Perhaps part of our consciousness remains there, in that moment, for good or for bad, and therefore every time we recall it we can almost live it. My most recent experience of this is from the day of the 2013 Boston Marathon. I imagine it will remain raw for some time for the whole city, and part of our collective consciousness will remain there, cradling the incident with the stronger arms of the present.
A week after the incident I gave my nude-colored stilettos in to my cobbler.
“What did you do in these?” he asked. The leather had been stripped off both heels, the soles cut, and blue spots (Gatorade?) all over one.
“I wore them in the Boston Marathon – ” I replied.
“Heels…in a Marathon? Who…” he scratched his head.
I had meant to say I wore them to the Marathon. In many ways I did not even want to get into it, because most people don’t wear heels at sporting events, even as a spectator. But in a more comprehensive way I guess I was trying to say, I wore them in the Boston Marathon…bombing. But I could not. I did not want to. I did not want to have that memory there in a cramped shop, with my head aching from the smell of glue and leather.
And then it happened. It happened anyway. But for the first time the memory was not of the day, or running in heels, or the fallen barricades, police, cattle bells, baseball caps, magnolias, smoke. It was not of the hurt. A totally different aspect of the event surfaced. My mind saw a man in a raincoat with puffy eyes, turning the door knob of my sister’s apartment front door, with my scarf in his hand. Through the night following the attack, I had reported the experience to some news networks. Because of time differences I was asked to report near the crime scene in the middle of the night. Standing at the door, at 3am, to help me was my future brother-in-law. All things considered, he said, I shouldn’t have to go alone. When we arrived at the television crews, I realized I had to say something as opposed to just show how I felt. Crying would only say one thing. I needed to say some thing. Shocked from the day and the hour, and the cold spring night, I froze – until my future brother-in-law said, ‘just be you. People just want to hear you.’
Then the memory finished, and all I felt was kindness. The kindness of him keeping me company, the kindness of the reporters sharing stories so compassion could be showered back to Boston. And kindness to myself, allowing everything that unfolded that day and week to follow to be okay as opposed to wanting it, or me, to be feeling or acting differently. Returning to a place where part of your consciousness sits, you see more of it than before. You learn more than before. You are more than before.
Me. That is who wears heels as a spectator to the Boston Marathon.