A nostalgia for what you never knew

To be sure, some language has a word which sums that up. What we need here is a reverse dictionary. I have the definition; now find me the word.

Anyway, there have been occasions when I experience just that. The difference between it and your run-of-the-mill longing for something-you-can’t-have-but-desperately-want is that with the former you just know exactly how having it feels, even though you’ve never had it. As a kid I got into Medieval European history (thanks, Mr. Tolkien). I longed to live in a time of castles, swords and longbows. I read history books and pined for the past I never knew, for what might have been, if only I’d been born in the right place, at the right time. But the other feeling, the feeling of nostalgia, that’s like a lost memory. I can so connect with the feeling of being there and doing it that I long to remember the details.

I don’t know if I’m making any sense.

I’ve done a shitload of research for my novel. Since it’s contemporary (2010-ish, NYC), I have a lot of resources. And I’ve watched a lot of movies and videos to pick up on the flavor, the general vibe, of the city around that time. Today I had a new inspiration, and I went back to YouTube to find a shared memory of my two MCs. Nothing in three and a half years of research gives me that sense of nostalgia for what I never knew as does this:

I was never one of these boys, but damn, I’d give a few years of my life to have been there with them. To be 15, tanned and skinny, with more more balls than sense; being reckless, throwing caution to the wind. I know–somehow–what it feels like, and I want that feeling.

Maybe I didn’t dare enough in my youth. My kind of reckless had more to do with combinations of intoxicants, walking in unsafe places at night, practicing unsafe sex. But I was never athletic, never gutsy in that way. And I watch skateboarders going down flights of stairs, and these guys, jumping off C-rock into the Harlem River, and I can almost feel that rush, that feeling of being bullet-proof, deathless.

It’s youth. I’m nostalgic not for my own past, but for Youth in all its ballsy, gutsy glory. And the taste is bittersweet for the tang of regret that lies beneath.

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