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.