I tend to be very sentimental when it comes to savouring memories. I have a habit of keeping a collection of things that remind me of certain previous events and people that have influenced my life. Under my bed I have about 4 stuffed shoeboxes full of notes, ticket stubs, and certain small objects that still arouse memories of my happiest days.
Out of all the items I have held on to as a memento, there is one that I do not preserve by means of a shoebox. Instead, I keep it in the back pocket of my wallet. What may simply appear to be a ten dollar bill to others is a priceless memory of the last time I saw a person who is very dear to me. It's a memory that I keep very close to my heart (or in this case, I guess, close to my rear).
I remember it as if it just happened yesterday. It was my last day living in the city and she rode the train out to see me from an hours distance away. We had spent the afternoon together. It wasn't much, but it would be the last time that I would see my girlfriend, Meghan. In my eyes, if I only had 10 minutes to spend with her, it wouldn't have mattered. All I cared about was seeing her one last time.
We had a wonderful time together that afternoon, and she had to catch her train back at 3:50. Well, we happened to be running a little behind. We had carelessly lost track of time, and we now had twelve minutes to get to the station, which was about 20 minutes walking distance. I quickly began to look for a cab to hail. With no cabs anywhere to be seen, we kept walking in the appropriate direction. After what seemed like forever, I finally summoned a cab and we climbed in. With no luck, we seemed to be stopping at every light and getting no where fast. The time ticked by and eventually we were close enough to get there faster by foot.
We were down to three minutes, and we were about four blocks away. So I paid the taxi driver and we navigated our way through the angry honking cars to the sidewalk. I was running as fast as I could. With Meghan grasping to the end of my arm, we weaved through crowds of people. While she struggled to hold on and keep up, I could hear the sounds of her shoes click-clocking along the cement. To our disadvantage, she had decided to wear heels that day. Every loud clocking noise sounded like impish laughter from her shoes. It seemed like they were purposely trying to make things harder for us and enjoying every minute of it. With every step, they taunted us, but we strived to keep moving.
More than once, we had to dash across four lanes of one way traffic. We couldn't afford to be patient. Car horns screamed at us louder than ever as they flew past us. While the seconds were eating away, our hearts were racing like crazy, and her shoes did not cease laughing at us. Everything was going faster and faster except for us. Meghan's shoes continued to hold us back, yet she did the best she could to keep up the pace.
I took a sharp turn and decided to take a short cut down a spiral set of stairs. We cut through the subway station, and after passing many stores and cafes, we found the train station. With Meghan still attached to my arm and flailing about to keep up, we headed up and down the station trying to locate the sign for her train. I spotted it ahead and in a rush of panic and excitement, we jetted toward it. Our legs quickly manoeuvred down the stairs to the tracks in a jumbled movement of fumbling feet. When we reached the bottom a gush of wind brushed our hopes away as the train briskly blew by us. Descending down the tracks and into darkness, it was gone.
We had missed the train by a minute. I had previously sworn to Meg's mother that she would be on that train. Her mother had made it quite clear to that Meghan had to be somewhere important and couldn't miss it. Well, consequently, Meghan had to call her mom and tell her what had happened. It wasn't going to be a pleasant conversation. I sat down on a bench patiently, while Meghan paced around nervously and tried to plead with her mother over her cell phone. I felt very much responsible, while Meghan was trying to convince her mom not to be upset. She told Meg that there was another train coming in 30 minutes and she need not miss it.
We found an employee who told us where we should go for the arrival of the second train. We walked in that direction and neither one of us had much to say. A solemn silence filled the air, as we walked with our hands joined together at our side. We came to a stop, once we found the place she would be departing from, and also departing from me. We glanced at each other, knowing what was to come soon enough. I stared into her eyes, reading her thoughts, her reading mine. We began to kiss, hoping it might drown out any negative thoughts of never seeing each other again.
Eventually, in the distance we could hear the train approaching. I pulled away slightly, enough to examine every detail in her face. I wanted to memorize every feature about her. Her eyes had become glossy, they seemed to shimmer with the lights over head. I could tell she was holding back. When the train stopped, she looked over at it for a second, and then back at me, waiting for me to say my goodbye. I wanted to say something but I really wasn't ready to. We had talked earlier about my riding the train back with her so she didn't have to be alone. I asked her if she wanted me to, and she said that she didn't want me to spend any more money on her. I realized that it didn't matter how late I got back, and I gave her what she thought was our last kiss. Then, to her surprise, I took her by the hand and entered the train. As a tear slowly slid down her cheek, I looked over at her and smiled.
We sat facing each other on the train, both of her hands in mine, and her eyes fixated on mine. We talked more so now, since our time together was extended another hour. "I didn't want you to ride the train back alone and upset," . Then she brought something to my attention. "Well, now you're going to have to ride home by yourself." After a pause she continued, "I guess I'll just have to ride back with you," and both of us smiled at this remark knowing full well that we both wished it were true.
After a few stops, a man in a suit asked me for my ticket. Since I had spontaneously decided to come along, I had to purchase a ticket aboard the train. Meghan exclaimed that she felt bad that I had been paying for her all day and pulled out a ten-dollar bill to hand to me. Before I had a chance to finish telling her that it was really ok, she slipped it in my hand and covered my hand over it with hers. I held it for a second, and looked at her. Then I slipped it into her purse, which resulted in her giving it back to me. So I agreed that I would keep the ten-dollar bill. I gave her a kiss and slipped it back into her purse. She immediately pulled it out, and stuck it in my pants pocket and convinced me to keep it. I stated "Fine I'll keep it, but I'm not going to spend it. If anything I'll probably mail it back to you." I looked at her with a smile on my face, but she looked back at me with a frown of disapproval.
In order to get back at a reasonable time, I had to get off at the stop before hers to catch the train home. We talked, and laughed, and kissed, as the hour quickly passed. Eventually, it came that we were one stop away from mine. I looked at her in her eyes and told her that I loved her and I would miss her very much. I told her that this wasn't "goodbye", it was just "see you later." Then we kissed until the train came to a stop again. I didn't want to stop, but knew it was time to go. I smiled at her, then turned and walked toward the exit, and soon found myself outside the train. I stared at her staring back at me through her window. When the train was out of sight, I felt empty.
I didn't get back until about 7:00pm. It was a boring and sad ride home, but it was worth every minute just to be with her. When I arrived at the train station, I had about twelve dollars left over including her ten. It was freezing cold out, which tends to make any long walk longer. I probably could have hailed a taxi to take me home, but as far as I was concerned I only had two dollars in my wallet. I swore that I would never spend the ten dollars that Meg had given to me. I would take it out of the cycle of currency until the next time I could hold her in my arms again (maybe longer). So hence forth, it remains in my wallet unspent. Every time I open my wallet, I remember that last day I spent with her.