Apartments, even whole houses, are replaceable. So you can move from one city to the next with little apparent effect: the events that happened there and our reactions to them are what mattered.
When we visit an old neighborhood, there is a sort of expectation. We know that we haven’t been there for ten years, we know that our old friends don’t live there anymore, but as we turn the corner, our eyes are prepared for what should not be there: a sort of time-melting effect that takes us back. And it hardly matters if the events were good or truly awful.

Sometimes we wind up dealing with the aftermath of our actions. So it’s emotional cleanup time in aisle 11. I had this problem about twelve years ago. I finally got the courage to revisit the coastal town I had inhabited in another world and time. An entire development had replaced the house on the property overlooking the cove. The fishing pier was now a crowded restaurant, and the 34-foot ketch was no longer swinging insouciantly from her mooring.

All the individuals I had loved, disputed with, and known intimately rested in the little cemetery overlooking the water. I couldn’t go; instead, I later confirmed their locations on the internet. Coward. There had been much angst, anger, and desire. All so hollow and empty now. What had it all been about, anyway?

I knew that memory tends to be like rolling tides smoothing the rocks and moving the sands into new patterns. That’s why years later, all the boiling anger seems so empty. One thing I know about myself is that I rarely leave off. It’s never really goodbye. I hang onto things for years. So I have trouble making real the facts that I’ll never see you again – even if I hate you. I’ll cross the street thirty years from now and see you, just as you were – young.

I avoid going back to old neighborhoods, houses, and lost dreams—full of shadows, reflections, and chimeras.

9 Replies to “Lost”

  1. A lovely poignant piece, and so true! I especially like this thought: “…memory tends to be like rolling tides smoothing the rocks and moving the sands into new patterns.”

  2. They’ve fenced in my old tugs so one’s children can’t go over and touch that mess that looks like misplaced baleen, and the old fishing dock at the end of a once nothing-much alley unless it was home to a scary wino or two, now bears high rise million dollar apartment buildings, all first-floored by waterfront restaurants. All that, of course, is but an illusion. I still catch pollock and ridiculous crabs there and touch the tugs enough for 3 — in my mind, where it counts!

  3. Why is it that development always has to destroy the esthetic people come to enjoy. My oldest began evaluating the towns we visit on the basis of how many restaurants they have built. To many of them, and too few other attractions eventually cause us to cross them off our list of places we like to go. I’ve started imagining an endless chain of eaters eating their way from one end of town to the other – gradually putting on enormous amounts of weight from overeating at dozens of eateries.
    I just have trouble imagining the need for so many eateries, and they displace shops, local galleries, and other small businesses. Basically it’s a sort of reverse food dessert.

  4. I hardly ever go back to places from my past for a visit. Even the places that I loved and had good memories of. I’m not afraid of ghosts, they just make me sad.

    1. Regrettably, I do sometimes see things, but in this case, I had a delivery to make to a customer and had no choice but to make the journey. Sometimes going back is incredibly liberating.

  5. I only ever went back once, to my old student town. It was very disappointing, made me realise that life moves in but one direction.

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