It started off with just a simple errand.
I bought a couple of things at a new store last week, only to discover that I already had one of them when I got home.
Easy fix. We’ve all done it. So I kept my receipt, called the first chance I got, and drove to return it on my lunch break today.
The store was out of my way, but not far out. Just enough that I navigated to it, to be sure I would not get lost. Having been there once before, the way was mildly recognizable to me. I still used a navigation app; it wasn’t EASY yet, just a bit familiar!
Back in the car, it seemed wise to let my A.I. copilot guide me once more. But I quickly realized that I knew almost exactly where I was now. And suddenly, instead of carefully focusing on the street signs, I began to notice the scenery. And the people.
Here a car door opened into traffic. As I leaned toward the left side of the lane to make room, I glanced over at a young girl, barely of driving age, it seemed. The expression she wore suggested trepidation, concentration, or maybe just a difficult day. I felt bad for this child and hoped she was okay, perhaps only facing a new experience for which she would be stronger tomorrow.
There a woman marched out boldly in front of me. I saw her in time and braked, but she was focused on her destination, purposeful. Her determined expression a fierce contrast with the other girl, who might be a third her age. This woman knew the measure of all around her, whether she acknowledged it or not, and it showed.
Then the back of a head bobbing parallel on the sidewalk, no expression at all to read thoughts or attitudes. Just someone walking along on lunch, or on an errand of their own.
Buildings climbing on either side as I stopped at a light, blocking out the sun on a single street corner. Trees in lines at level heights, something far too cultured to be seen in nature. They decorate our cityscape, only hinting at what was here before. Or not, since I drive through a desert tempered by narrow lines of green, and well-kept streets. Mostly.
I have a friend across the country, who has lived a handful of decades about the city where I last spent but two; I on the outskirts, he in its heart. Gratefully I read a weekly newsletter he publishes, visualizing what he describes in such human detail: the faces, voices, rumbling cars and quiet cafés, books and trees and curiosities that abound downtown. It feels distant, a nostalgia for a place I left willingly, but still can feel a part of, if only for a few minutes each week.
Today I discovered it in my own backyard, or close enough. The cities are thousands of miles apart, say the maps, but I could have warped across space… or time, to compare the views. I still sleep on the outskirts, but I’m in the heart of it now. A closeness washes through me, to see the same vistas I knew then, here again.
Did I really move anywhere at all? Or did I just forget where I was for a while? By the pace of the familiar old city around me, I almost cannot tell.