Making a new beginning in a place that is familiar is a strange process. We see the faces that we knew. I had not been gone long, but so much had changed. This city moves fast. I wondered whether it would have been the same if I were in another city. Whether things would have changed so fast or whether I would have felt so different or whether I would have had to leave.
There is little place to hide from ourselves, no matter how large or small our surroundings might seem. We will always occupy only as large a space as we allow our hearts to open up to. We can be shrunken down to much smaller than our dreams.
I took the long walk from the train station to the diner. It felt different though I knew not so much could have changed in that short time. In a few months, though, the season had changed. It was warmer and drier than it had been. The clouds were streaky and distant in the sky. It was so bright. I knew that the heat of summer would arrive soon. I tried to think of how it would feel to live here again, in such a different situation.
I knew that I didn’t have to return to this city. I knew that I could have gone anywhere else at that moment. I knew that there would have been something for me anywhere. I knew that there was much waiting for me here. I knew that I felt some kind of pull back to this place, a pull that was inextricably tied to Eve and to what I still needed to keep of her. I was not yet ready to let go of her memory. I still felt that there was something to be discovered here.
I passed through the older part of the city. Smaller buildings, more of them constructed of brick and mortar than glass and steel. There was always something more comforting about these buildings than the tall skyscrapers that stuck out from the skyline just a few blocks west. Of course, that is only natural. Skyscrapers are built to try to scratch the sky; it is not surprising that in their reaching, the people on the ground become so much smaller, become distant, become vague memories.
The concrete rose and fell with the older trees whose roots were ready to take the land back. Roots angry to stretch out farther, to grow out more thickly, to find their kin. Do trees understand why they are spaced so equally apart? Do they realize why they must grow so far from each other, why they are not allowed to stand in the forests that their predecessors were allowed to grow into? Do they have qualms with the flowers that grow not so far away? Do they shed their flowers and fruit with frustration that they sit on concrete and are not able to become earth again, to become a part of them again? The trees must feel something, too, in a different way. With silent vibrations than we cannot hear. They must voice their frustration with the losing of leaves and the peeling of bark.
It did not take long to get to the diner. It did not feel long, perhaps, because I was not paying attention, and there really was no rush, after all. There was only the need to get there eventually, at some point. I had grown used to meandering. I wondered whether I could still speak to people. My mouth felt dry and my voice felt underused and unpracticed. How to speak to people in civilization? How to make that small-talk chatter while taking someone’s order? How to smile?
I would remember again. I knew I would. I knew that I was close. I knew that I was close to feeling whole, to feeling wholly human again. I was ready to. I had to be ready to. I could not go on with the not-living, with the not-feeling, with the not-breathing.
Returning to the city meant become used, once again, to the air that challenges lungs with every breath. To once again become accustomed to that challenge so that it is no longer even noticed. We are capable of getting used to all kinds of poison after extended exposure. Our bodies adapt and forget their own suffering.
When I arrived at the familiar corner where our apartment building stood, the one where Eve and I had lived for too short a time, the one where Eve had lived for so short a time, the one that I could not remain in because of my own fear of what that place meant, I felt myself awash with memories. Awash with wave after wave of what I had once felt. And a strange emptiness that felt like it was trying to figure out how to become filled once again with something. With some kind of feeling about this place that was somehow different than what was there before. All the old emotions had been dissolved into my body.
I lit a cigarette and stood looking at the building. I struggled for a moment, because it is always strange to feel and to feel the not-feeling. To seek the emotion unfamiliar that dwelt in that place. I searched for it, leaning against the wall of another building. Craning my neck to stare up at our window, the one we used to smoke cigarettes out of when it rained. I found it, on the corner, on the fourth floor. The curtains were different. The lights were on. I couldn’t see any figures moving around in there.
Who takes our places after we leave a place that means so much to us? Do they realize that they are filling a void? Do they realize what was there before and do they wonder whether they will become a part of the place?
I finished my cigarette and walked down the block to the old restaurant. Stood outside it for a moment. I had to pause everywhere, wondering, thinking. Discovering what was still there from my time with Eve, contemplating what I felt then, wondering what I would feel in a day, in two days, whether anything would change, ever. And of course, I knew I had to return to life. I knew that I finally was.