Returning to my Alma Mater has been a walk amongst ghosts. So much still remains as it was when I was a student, running around with the unstoppable energy that only stress can power. Many of the buildings are the same, as are the stores, streets, sidewalks I frequented with clockwork regularity - unchanged it seems, in the years that have passed. People, even, who I once saw daily, still at their posts, though my time interacting with them stopped long ago. A former life, still in motion, just without me in it.
What is perhaps most odd to me about this almost-homecoming is that it doesn’t feel like a homecoming at all. Not in the warm, comforting way of going home on winter break, or during a summer respite from school. Rather, this homecoming seems odd, a displaced vision of a life that I might have lived, had different choices been made. It is a parallel universe, that I get to somehow observe, watched like a movie on some three dimensional screen.
Maybe this melancholy nostalgia is due to the fact that the ‘Burgh was once home to me. I had a place here, once, where I returned to, where I lived. I had a mailing address here, where bills were sent, packages received, which told people that this was where I had laid roots. I drove by that house my first day in the city, and out of habit, found myself reaching for a garage door opener that I had long since handed over to new owners.
Maybe this only happens to me. But I have found that, if I have once lived in a place, returning fills me with a combination of excitement, yearning, and remorse. The memories of that place, and my life there, so little thought of when away, haunt me with vivid clarity. Insignificant moments are relived. Cravings return. A desire to re-inhabit that life with I left can become almost overwhelming. I never quite feel comfortable. I long to go back to the place I once called home, inhabit the rooms I once occupied, sleep in the space I once felt mine.
I am not one for sentimental collections. I don’t buy knick-knacks on vacation as “reminders” of where I’ve been. I rarely take photos. Instead, the places I have been house the events of my past. Overlaid upon the bricks and concrete, frozen within the walls and windows, are my memories, to be revived when revisited, remembered when touched. The physical wrapped in the ephemeral, myself the decoder to an invisible world.