The things I have lost during this fellowship were constantly in my mind in the days heading to the end. I lost a piece of my universal plug. A cosmetic cream. A bath sponge. I lost and found my medicines, contact lenses and comb. I almost lost my iPhone. And now I am going to lose nine friends.
All these lost things made me remember the beautiful poem “One Art”, by Elizabeth Bishop, in which she says we must master the art of losing:
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;/ so many things seem filled with the intent/ to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster/ of lost door keys, the hour badly spent./ The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:/ places, and names, and where it was you meant/ to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or/ next-to-last, of three loved houses went./ The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,/ some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent./ I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture/ I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident/ the art of losing’s not too hard to master/ though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.”
Although I know these losses aren’t a disaster, I cannot help the feeling that our goodbyes will resemble a kind of death. Probably I will never see again the majority of these nine people with whom I lived intensely together for nine weeks.
Each one of us comes from a different country and continent. When we come back home, not only the geographic distance will keep us apart, but also our work routine, the tiredness, our obligations, the bills to pay, the time.
Time is going to be our major ally and enemy. As it passes, the fellowship setbacks will be blurred to open space to mostly good remembrances, to a process of memories reinvention. As it passes, we are going to be these frozen smiling faces in old pictures, images shot with yesterday eyes.
Our lives are largely not defined by what we gain, but by what we lose. A smile. A small talk during a cold night. A unexpected hug. A shared laugh. Inside jokes. Stories exchanged.
Our losses define us more than what remains because, in a certain way, our moments abandon us in the exact instant they are born. In each little second we are what we were; we are always our own past.
So we try to freeze our lives with these odorless, tasteless, soundless, tactless photo images. By this frozen second we try to welsh the fact that time passes. And we are endless looking for experiences which have a promise of happiness. Based on the past, we know what could make us happy and we chase it for our future.
My universal plug, my cosmetic cream, my bath sponge are the tiny little things I lost during this journey. But I am also going back home without five continents, without nine people who are now part of my history, but who will not going to share in person mostly of my future.
There will be no more side by side plane seats, earphones to share the same music, funny quotes followed by laughs, squeezed bodies in a small van, ten different accents following up questions, bland cold sandwiches, countless introductions (and their imitations), overnight phone rings, Gus N’ Roses song after a crying, hugs of people who now I consider my friends. There will be just the silence of what passed, the penniless inheritance we left to each other and the memory of what we were during this two-month period.
But, although I am already missing everybody, it is better this past than its absence. It is better happy memories than not being happy at all. In many ways, it seems I have now a second family spread throughout the world and attached by an invisible bond. Or, as Neha said to me, “Now you have more nine people to wish you good”.
Not everybody can be so lucky. So, I say goodbye with this sad happiness, with this bittersweet taste in my mouth. With the precise notion that these things lost are meaningful. And I say goodbye wishing you all, my dearest friends, the whole good in your future past.