They are getting married on the Diag. The bride’s dress is white. The groom is in black. Together, they smile in the glow of sunlight and camera flashes. It is not even an irregular occurrence on campus, with couples kissing on the steps of Angell Hall or posing in front of the League. Their present happiness is as palpable as their anticipation. They dream of future joys: the anniversaries, the dinners out, the moments every morning when they wake up in the other’s arms. They can see much further than my ordinary eyes. Yet, for all their extraordinary powers, they are mired on the same campus as me. I conjure up a multitude of reasons for staging one of life’s most important moments on the cracked bricks of the University of Michigan. Perhaps they were sweethearts, sneaking in kisses between lectures or after study sessions. Perhaps they met one night, dancing on the same sticky floor at Rick’s. Perhaps they think Hatcher looks particularly nice in the Friday sunshine. For whatever logic, they felt compelled to return.
It makes me wonder what memories I will take from these four years. It certainly seems that the sleepless nights, the missed club meetings, and the endured classes will be the first to fade. These are commonplace events that flash by even now. They seem unimportant to the greater journey of my life. They are simply one of the thousands of steps that will be lost to time. But maybe it is the mundanity of all these little moments that make other times shine all the brighter. And at least on this Friday, this proves true. For this Friday is the beginning of fall break and breaks always feel more special after the month and a half of schoolwork. Every time I have walked to and from class, every time I have stared at an unfinished piece of schoolwork, I make myself small promises. Promises of an extra hour of sleep or time to finish one more movie. I focus on the things that can be accomplished within the two free days. It is oddly freeing. I don’t need to think any further than the next midterm. I don’t need to consider anything more than getting through another week, another semester even.
The couple on the Diag have long-term plans and they have long-term worries. Maybe they returned to find a time when things were just a little bit simpler. But it is something hard to recognize in the moment. It is something that can only be seen once it has been lost. I am looking for something to hold onto on this beautiful fall day. But it is so hard to hold onto so many fleeting days. It is so hard to treat every moment as something to be prized. We must all pick out moments and places that are special to us. For the couple, it is a shared portrait in front of a hallowed building. For me, it is many moments and none.