Some days, since the winter weather has become sun kissed more often than not, I find myself walking around the downtown blocks of the Mile High City. Normally when I have this itch that stalks the length of my spine, intent on satiating my hazardous lack for self control. The cars pass by me, slowly pleading with the syrupy clutches of the traffic lights, pacing the pulse of the city, circulating life in a navigable ebb and flow testing one’s patience amidst their work week commute. It helps to feel like someone in a sea of unfamiliar faces as it is this foreign place I now call home. I spent the last year and a half intoxicated with a romanticized notion of identifying myself as a gypsy soul, that somehow I would know peace and happiness if I chose to search for a home within the space of my gait. Somewhere, in a present only known to my past self, I am 5 years old and packing a battered turquoise suitcase, outfitted with light up high top shoes and set to hit the pavement to begin my beatnik journey through life. My mother is calling my bluff and leading my charge with the front door swung open, bidding me farewell and until we meet again which happens to be 20 minutes later. Frustrated and starved for reassurance of my importance to her after the recent birth of my brother, I come crawling back home without the welcoming parade of waving white handkerchiefs still wet with tears summoned by the event of my departure. Maybe there’s a reason I have always been driven to drift, nauseated from a homesickness I have never known.
I have amassed pounds of coins throughout the last year and a half of my travels, never settling into a sedentary residence longer than a few weeks at a time. I traveled over state lines across the country, commuted back and forth to a paradise sunken into the heart of the Pacific, journeyed beyond the borders of the United States, searching for a space capable of nourishing my wandering soul from its self inflicted state of starvation. My hands frequently dive into what is now a sea of silver, copper and nickel metals each time I search for a certain belonging floating through my purse, every circle echoing a previous transaction I at one instance deemed worth making and debited from the monetary value of my time. Usually they were tossed with careless concern into my handbag, clanking unceremoniously against each other and amassed within an expanding mess of my belongings. I accumulated these coins assuming I would one day call upon them but knowing I had no intention of ever using again.
Recently while walking the yards of cement carpeting downtown Denver, the weight of all my previous transactions became cumbersome and I felt a sharp stabbing sensation explode through my shoulder and plunge down my side. As though an anchor had been released into the ocean, I was pulled down by the weight of all those memories I had been collecting, existing in an accidental tribute to a year and a half of living precariously at the whim of trade wind blown transactions. I realized this pain and its continued presence in my life was held in all those weighted chunks of currency, stinging remnants left over after months of running from nightmares I had purposefully forged during my waking reality and presently added no value continuing to include as part of the sum calculating the current worth of my life. While grappling with this realization, a red flickering light caught my eye, rhythmically beating into my mind that the car adjacent to it was parked on borrowed time. I pulled a coin from my purse, the weight of a previous interaction I decided I no longer needed be afflicted from the painful memory it held in my present life. I placed it into the meter. 13 minutes. A green light began to flash. I picked up another silver moment monetized from my past and dropped it into the slot. 26 minutes. It felt freeing to lighten myself of the heaviness those minutes had held across the miles I meandered and over the possibility of embracing a state of happiness. The landscape around me was now offering a freedom from the pain and hurt I thought I would always be stubborn in my resolve to carry and keep.
Now, when I have free time or taunted by impulses I can no longer bear to heed, I wander the streets looking for those people parked on borrowed time, inserting an eclectic mix of my memories into those flashing red meters. It feels freeing to pass the burden of my past’s heavy currency on so others can make meaning out of their worth in time, if only in passing minutes, which I know now had slowly been bringing me to a state of excruciating and entirely self inflicted pain.
Sometimes I pull out a Japanese Yen, a Canadian dollar or Indonesian Rupiah and I put them back into my purse. Some of the weeks I spent traveling abroad over the last year and a half have no place in other people’s meters. For now they will remain in my purse until I decide to make the time to tuck them away in a box holding a mix of memories containing all those experiences I feel are worth remembering, good or bad, for the rest of my life. At some point, my hope is to be able to periodically sift through these keepsakes when feeling sentimental or looking for guidance bought during a past transaction I made with my time. I did find reasons to smile occasionally during the period in my life I spent embracing the pain that each ignorant coin tossed into my purse had bought me. Those are transactions I cannot nor would not want to waste jamming into another’s meter as they still only hold value to me and I welcome their weight while I explore the streets and boulevards of the first place I have come to call home in a year and a half. The strain I feel to my shoulder is slowly lightening as time beats on away from my past. All the heaviness I felt from a year and a half of poor transactions I now enthusiastically gift to other people, with the hope that those in receipt of my memories may make richer ones out of the minutes I was never able to myself. I am starting to feel better each time I reach into my purse, grab at my diminishing pool of coins and ceremonially slide them smoothly into the slots of those meters I come across flashing red, grateful to let go of my past in effort to avoid another searing avalanche of agony through my shoulder, down my side and ultimately throughout my life. I actually find that I smile more often now than I have in years, its presence stirred out of knowing the pain from those coins I still continue to carry are only able to remain in my life and in my mind on borrowed time.