Spots of Time

By
It was possibly the most bizarre night of my entire life. It was the night after my cousin’s wedding, and I was having a blast walking around New Haven with my parents, my older sister, my aunt and uncle, and my three second cousins, who’re all my age or older. The entire night had been a blur—sitting in a pizza shop near Yale with “Blinded by the Light” humming on the speakers, then watching two guys dressed in bear costumes get into a fist fight—it just kept getting weirder and more hilarious. The features of every moment that night stayed seared in my memory, oddly lit by the bright streetlights, the laughter of my cousins, and that song. But little did I know that the strangest, yet most moving, moment was about to come around the street corner. We heard bagpipe music coming from somewhere in the city streets, and the next thing we knew, there appeard a massive parade of bagpipe players dressed in officer uniforms, with middle-aged and elderly ladies trailing proudly behind them. Lastly in the parade came a band of young guys and girls, whooping drunkenly and walking with the bagpipe brigade like they were a part of it.
My fun-loving uncle convinced us to join them, and suddenly we were a part of the parade too, which we figured out was for the annual National Scottish Policeman Convention or something like that. As we made our way across a green, the group suddenly slowed down. A whisper passed back to the end of the group, and even the guy holding the jello shots caught his poise for a minute. I had no idea was going on, but once I got up on the tree stump with my cousin Mike to see better, I knew something was terribly wrong. A piper in the front of the circling crowd was speaking in a grave, forced tone, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Then I heard the sound of two old ladies weeping into their husbands’ shoulders. The noise pierced the night, making all of the secure memories of the night feel so far away, and the present feel like a magnified kaleidoscope of see-sawing vision. Eventually I caught on that one of the old policemen who hadn’t been feeling well enough to come on the parade that night had had a heart attack and died as we marched. I felt guilty, like a traitor in the tight-knit community of policemen’s families, taking advantage of the amusement and poking fun at the bagpipers.
But only for a minute. Together, as if they had rehearsed it, the men lifted their bagpipes and began to play “Amazing Grace”. They began to march again. The song, all too familiar from years of hearing it in church, had never sounded so forlorn, so meaningful, so beautiful. It almost made me cry, but somehow I was too frozen, like an out-of-body experience. I just stared down at the dark ground. It was the most perfect moment, like something on television, but so much more genuine that I wanted to slap myself for comparing the two. My feet shuffled on the tree stump and I nearly stepped off. I think it was the sheer profound shock; such a contrast between the fun of the night earlier and the mournfulness now. How I remembered that day for the rest of the night was not for its sharp sadness, but instead for the feeling I got that something bigger was going on. The way the memories framed themselves in my mind, illuminated by the most peculiar saturation, was something never to be duplicated again. The series of moments in the dark streets had a sort of beat, a vague synchrony that made me leave all insecurities and typical pretexts behind. I was glad no one had their camera with them.





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