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Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper (1498)
"Long gone. Never lost."

As a departure nears, before my thoughts shift to whatever might come next, they scan around for Lasts. The last supper. The last breakfast. That last nuzzle from one of those cats who imprinted on me during my stay. I might be here today, but I will most certainly be gone by this time tomorrow, so I try to absorb just as much of the atmosphere here before forfeiting it in favor of fresh adventure. I feel loss most intensely just before the countdown finally concludes. I feel deep tinges. In one of those moments, I swear that I'd abandon every thought of actually departing if that act might freeze everything precisely where it seems to be in that moment. Adventure seems a false promise right then, a down trade. I'd easily barter back my newly-acquired handful of magic beans to recover my reliable old cow.

Time tangles then, for Lasts more properly reside in faulty memory.
I was just now trying to recall the last time I visited New York City, and I realize that I cannot quite remember. I certainly didn't realize that I was experiencing such a permanent last in the moment I experienced it. I conflate my next-to-last with my last, and I feel only a deep sense of longing and loss. I sense that I should have held on more tightly and at least tried to focus more intently, lest I end up precisely where I find myself this morning, unable to precisely remember when I last left that beloved city. A man my age carries many more lasts than firsts, and I drag them around with me like a long, tangled, rusty chain. If I had everything to do all over again, I'd attend much more closely to my Lasts.

This life is not a race. The first sees no-one else before them and all but one racer senses someone slightly behind. First or last, when the competition ends, every competitor faces the prospect of having just experienced another last. That one might just have been the final one they'll ever compete in. Were you present then or fussing over how your friends might interpret your final position? Were you so focused then on WhatNext that you abandoned that sacred present, the one you might never experience again? Ten years from now, looking back in joy or sorrow, will an actual memory greet you? I have rushed so emphatically to get to my departure gate on time that I might have simply thrown away that time. The last time I was in Vienna's airport, I fear that I'd already transported myself far away from there and so I cannot quite recall now what happened to me there. I might have been blithely presuming that I would be returning. I have not yet and might never return there again. Life's not a race because Lasts really matter, perhaps much more than any first ever does.

Time bleeds herself out as she passes. She's a fickle companion. One minute she might be right here, full of herself, and the next minute, dressed up as somebody else. Regardless of how emphatically I might hold her, she'll slip right through my grasp. She always has. And yet I still find distractions to focus my fleeting attention far away from a waning experience. I rarely even try to catch this chimera, just as if I could. But as this latest departure looms, I try to slow myself down enough to focus my appreciation on what I am most certainly losing. This last supper might prove every bit as memorable and instructive as any, even the one Leonardo imagined well enough to rewrite history in his own favor. Leonardo was not present when the object of his painting occurred, yet his work has become the definitive last for almost everyone in Western civilization. Long gone. Never lost. I focus on my Lasts as I exit.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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