A voice in my head took over and doesn’t want to let me go….this one wants to be continued. Finger stretching for nanonano.
When I was a little girl, I frequently heard adults throwing around the sentence: You can’t go home again. It preyed on my mind because I was too little to understand the meaning and they all held on to it fiercely as if it were a mantra.
As I grew older, I never asked anyone what they meant when they said it. I learned that it came from an old novel from the 1930’s, but that the actual connotations were farther reaching.
When I was 32, feeling kicked around by the world, a little down on my luck, a little tired from feeling like I’d burnt the candle from both ends, I went home having lived in San Francisco for seven years with only one visit home six years ago. My little mountain home nestled at the foothills of the Appalachians now seemed the target for growth out of Washington DC. With the impending commuter train, cheap real estate popped up declaring affordable and semi-rural. You won’t be sitting on your neighbor!
The drive through the valley dismayed me. Old forest trampled. New roads. A Walmart. I sat in my car on Main Street, outside of the diner where Alan and I shared a milkshake a billion moons ago. The diner was now a Chinese restaurant. Curiosity propelled me to walk despite the ambushing cold.
A Starbucks stood on the corner of Main and Thistle. The Cricket Bookstore, my favorite haunt, was closed replaced by a cellphone store. Remember the scene from “It’s A Wonderful Life” when George is walking around Pottersville and it’s now a corrupt little place and he feels disoriented? That was me times twenty.
Once I could have walked down this street and recognized most everyone. Now, I recognized no one.
Ramsey’s Publick House. Tricia Ramsey and I were in the same year at school. I wondered if this place belonged to her family.
I entered. It was dark and a gas fire burned in the corner. A few patrons sat at tables on the farside away from the fire. Still feeling bone-chilled, I went to the fire and held out my hands and closed my eyes, half-hoping that when I opened them, I’d be twenty-one and Alan and me were still something other than estranged.
I turned. It was Tricia. Her face lit and she still had that wicked, daring grin. Neither of us were squealers. We didn’t jump up and down and send voices into orbit that only dogs could recognize. But we were huggers, except that at least seven months of soon-to-be-human stood between us. I suddenly experienced a tsunami of shame for having fallen off the face of Virginia, into a world where no one could find me or call me or hate me for the multitude of stupid things I had done when I didn’t know any better.