Being back here is supremely surreal.
Y'know, as I typed that, I wanted so badly to say "back home", but I just couldn't. This isn't home. Home is…somewhere else. I don't know where that is exactly, but it's not here.
This town is centuries old, desperately trying to force itself into the 21st century. Like an elderly women trying to reclaim her youth with lipstick and false eyelashes, so this town tries to hide it's brick streets with bright paint and neon lights. It's disheartening to drive down our Mainstreet now. On one end you can find historic homes, antique shops, and brick lined streets peeking through the edges of the pavement. As you travel, time passes. There's the high school we all went to, because it was the only one that we had, more than a century old. It's been modernized and expanded to accommodate the hundreds of kids who pass through it's doors every year, but somehow still manages to hold the history that, in fact, it's older than any of the town's current inhabitants. There's the butcher that always used to scare me as a child, the nostalgic dairy freeze, and the corner store where anyone could buy a pack of smokes, no matter there age.
From there, we pass into no-man's land.
The high school stadium is sponsored now. A car dealership proudly displays it's logo and name across the top of a grotesquely painted arena. Across the street, a mini mall complete with a Starbucks, tanning salon, gas station, and hideous red neon lights that seem glaringly out of place. A futuristic cosmopolitan clashing with vintage nostalgia.
Maybe it's apropos, considering the residents. The younger generation call this town a black hole. Everyone comes up through the school system swearing they're going to make it out. Only a lucky few ever stay gone. Look at me, gone for almost 7 years and somehow I've been sucked back in. I didn't beat the odds. The optimism of the young blends with the bitterness of the old in these streets.
This blending of age and youth means that no matter where you go, your history is always right by your side. Everywhere I go, people know me. Sometimes I know them, but most of the time their face only strikes a distant memory. I wonder how they know my face. In high school, I was a person I barely recognize now. People had such high expectations of me, and I tried my best to fit everyone's mold. The actor, the singer, the photographer, the top student…and from there I became the college student, and then the college graduate….I'm not that girl anymore. I left her somewhere along the roadside on the way to Florida. And it's hard, because there's so much I want to say to the random person who approaches me on the street or in the bank; I want to tell them about the roads I've walked and the places I've been. I want to tell them that I have no idea who they are, and they really have no idea of the woman I've become. But I can't do that.
It's not possible.
So instead, I smile and nod. I pretend that I remember who they are, and the memories that we supposedly shared together. When we part, I wave goodbye and call out a promise to keep in touch. Inside, I know it'll never happen.
Like this town, we share some characteristics of a fond memory, but deep down we're only strangers.