August 24th, 2021.
A beautiful evening of June, Cesar boarded a flight to Mexico. The same day, his best friend had successfully passed his Master of Arts at the Academy of Music of Basel, in Switzerland. They had come home early, to celebrate together, play games, and think about what came next for all of them – musicians finishing their school years, ready and eager to take a full-time position at orchestras across the wild wide world. Cesar said goodbye to all his friends with a smile on his face and the feeling of accomplishment in his heart. He was going across the Atlantic to spend a long overdue time with his family during the summer break.
Three weeks later, Cesar passed away in an overcrowded ICU at a hospital of his home country. He had contracted COVID-19.
Cesar’s best friend was my sister’s roommate. He was in his mid-twenties. They knew each other, having spent most of the pandemic locked in smaller groups of friends. Cesar was a regular, coming often to their home to play music.
I do not know exactly how close my sister and Cesar were. I do know it affected her. I read it in the tears she was fast to hide and on the unspoken words clouding her eyes.
Despite all our good faith, one could say we never realize how serious a situation is until it hits close to home. The dark days of this past year cut short lives of millions who didn’t need to go. Of people with dreams and desires, who, like all of us, had all the rights to expect the best of this Earth.
We tend to think of time as past, present, and future. As a linearity, a journey of which we don’t really remember the start. We all hope our section of it to have a happy ending – if we can even fully grasp it as having an ending at all. While Harari’s book Homo Sapiens made me realize how small our time on this Earth is compared to the billions of years before our civilization, this story forces me to remember how small we are within our own time. This forces us to embrace the present. To live to fight another day and enjoy it while we can. I remember my aunt, one cloudy day in Paris as we shared a coffee:
I cannot imagine the willpower it requires Cesar’s relatives to have to go through a situation like this, and I can only empathize with them. I cannot imagine what it takes to carry on, and still think it is worth it. But I can think and say this: every day we breathe in and breathe out is another one we better live fully, with no regrets. We owe at least that much to the ones who never saw those days coming – because they would have wanted the same thing.
I can sometimes be a rebel against the tide of time and try to think of myself as outside of its gigantic wheel, but the truth is, stepping out of it was never possible from the start. I need to accept that the world changes, that we evolve, that there are many things to build and little time for it, that people disappear, and that I better embrace it, and commit to it all.
Alone, now, with all these stories in mind, I feel the distance between us. I imagine you in our living room jungle, thousands of miles away, with the sunrise pointing its lone eye above the Cascades and the world we started to build for ourselves there. And I can think of no one else to ride the forever rising tide of time with, for as long as we are permitted to play that game, if you allow me.