It's the smell of damp concrete stairs and the breeze floating in from the open doors to the loading dock, carrying with it a green scent of grass and earth after a rain in summer.
It's the feel of air on sweaty skin, of shivers in anticipation of a job well-done.
It's the sight of a dark backstage and pointe shoes at the end of well-shaped, pink-clad legs beneath layers of delicate-but-itchy white tulle.
It's the sound of music - any type, really, not just the music of the classics, but new and intriguing creations - being piped over the speakers and the hush of an attentive audience.
It is a memory. Only memory, now, nothing more tangible. But it is a memory, and part of me, part of who I am. It shaped me. When I need to feel motivated, when I need to recall what it feels like to live, what it feels like to strive on the road to all-that-I-can-be...I bring up this memory. The memory of the glory of summer, of the joy of hard work and its own rewards, of doing what is truly right for me.
There are other memories.
Memories of rushing, adrenaline-spurred, up two flights of stairs and behind a control booth, slipping on gloves and headset, panting "Spot Three here" into the headset, carefully aiming a Source Four at the head of our very own wonderful Maria, singing and dancing of her day in the hills and how her heart wants to laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over stones in its way, following her until she must return to the abbey and I to stage right.
Memories of slapping a ball of clay onto the wheel-head, gently pushing the pedal and (wo)man-handling the clay onto center, carefully judging whether the clay needs more water, bringing it up into a solid column and opening it with two thumbs like a flower, using light pressure and force of will to mold it into a useful shape, letting it set a bit before removing it and sending it to the "to-be-fired" tray.
Memories of hours spent hunched over 18-gauge stainless steel wire, pliers in each hand, bending and twisting and closing and dropping and continuing in the mindless pattern until the shape is finished, then starting all over again with much smaller wire and beads, watching as a beautifully delicate creation takes shape - smoothing away rough edges, that they might not catch on skin and clothes, measuring lengths against wrists, necks, fingers, attaching clasps, gently laying the finished piece into a padded box to be gifted, to see the surprise and delight on the face of the recipient.
Memories of sitting quietly in the passenger's seat, listening, offering nothing but a supporting, healing presence, as the pain of a tormented soul is unburdened in sometimes-eloquent, sometimes-uncertain words in the wee hours of the morning, giving love and support and feel-better energy to those around me who need it and appreciate it.
There are different kinds of memories.
Memories of hours in bed, naked, enjoying the delicately torturous shivers of pleasure, of rough kisses and biting passion and clawing fingernails, of drinking deep from the wellspring of tender kisses and touches to be had, of bringing another to the brink of madness-by-pleasure, of the delight and delicious knowledge that I am wanted as much as I want.
Memories of driving eight hours on the pretext of "visiting colleges", in order to see a lover that's been sorely missed, of standing in the back of the audience with a self-satisfied, anticipatory Cheshire-Cat-grin, of the look of surprise when they look up - something akin to being hit upside the head with a 2x4 but enjoying it immensely, of sitting in the front row and catching the odd glance of something deep and abiding and much more than mere musician/groupie appreciation, of being told "Don't you dare go anywhere," then being swept up in a fierce bear-hug and swung around, of evading mothers and wives and deadlines and anything else that might stand in the way, and getting lost and having adventures but above all, being together and being loved.
Life is memory. I hesitate to say that there is little tangible about the past - because there is much tangible about the past - but most of all, the past is preserved in our memories. To remember is to give life to something. To remember an achievement is to achieve it anew; to remember a love is to be loved once more. To relive experiences in the mind is to gain experience and knowledge from them, to know to repeat good things and avoid past mistakes.
I can't live in my memories, much as I'd like to. I can't go back to those summer days in the Vermont theater, clattering up or down those damp cement steps in nothing more than a white leotard, romantic tutu, pink tights, and pointe shoes. I can't be who I was then. I can be who I am now, made by who I was then. I can take her and mold her and shape her into me.
I am my memories. I am who I am.