To the tunes of my teens, I’m walking the streets of a town I know like the back of my pocket. It was here I was a child. It was here I became an adult. It is the place of my first kiss and my first heartbreak. It is the place I woke from childhood dreams and the place of nightmares that still wake me up. It is the place for some of my worst sins, now seen through the eyes of a disillusioned adult, not the gaze of a girl on the edge of womanhood. I hope that in my absence you managed to forgive me.
They say that everything changes and even this familiar city has its new nooks and crannies. And just like the city, friends from another lifetime confirm that I too have changed, expanded past borders I built myself. Reflected in each street stone, in each light post, in each familiar facade, the younger self stares back at who I am today. I think both she and I are a bit disappointed at what we see. Life develops in ways never anticipated and what once were uncertain takes shape and what were crystal clear breaks down. Both healing from scars that transcend time and space. Lingering are memories of people who did me wrong, yet more so of all my own shortcomings. In how many memories am I the fiend in the fog, too busy to fight my way forward to see who I hurt along the way? What scars coats the skin of those who came too close to my knives?
I believe in the individual’s responsibility to work hard to live with no regrets. To own our mistakes, to dare our desires and with a head held high, face the consequences. You were neither of those and yet your voice echoes in this environment that remind me so strongly of who I wasn’t when I was with you. The work in progress towards something very different than what fits into the template shape of what I think we both wanted me to be.
There are those who appear to know who they are from the moment they are born. They know what they want, how they want it and when. I always envied you for seeming so sure about all the things I wasn’t. Even in your doubt, you had direction, purpose, consistency. In mine, I had chaos, thrills, passion. You wanted the format, the template, I needed the uncertainty, the freedom. So both of us paid the price for tickets to our own destinations, worlds apart. Like all journeys worth the trip, it’s taking its time and I am nowhere near an end. But then again, I always felt more at home on the road. I don’t envy you anymore, I have found peace in being me.
Now almost a decade later, I walk the streets we used to walk together. I pass your house, my house and the house we shared, I guess, for as long as we could. All since long inhabited by other people, of other lives, filled with memories neither of us ever experienced. Yet our memories remain as well. Tucked in between floorboards and doorknobs lies the feeling of my face between your shoulder blades, that dumb look on both our faces when you read my mind, dinners with chili or no flavour at all, the happy moments when we were sure we would survive ourselves, and ultimately the one when we knew we wouldn’t.
Still, all that ends also begins and the first time I saw you remains etched onto my retina with picture-perfect precision. You, as though dreamed into shape. A decade without you later, I am happier, but know that no-one reached your baseline. Maybe this is the uncomfortable truth why I never wrote about you before. Namely, because the reason why I could not make it work with you was never really about us at all. It was all about who I was then because it is who I am becoming comfortable being today.
I’ve often wished that I, that we, could have done things differently, yet unable to imagine what that differently would look like. While everything changes, there are also things that remain the same.