Sun 8 Feb 2009
and then sometimes it just all builds up and the urge to run, to outdistance, unfetter, leaves me shaking.
i live in the nexus of family and old friends, in the town where i grew up, the town where, sometimes, i feel smallest. the sidewalks testify to memories three decades old and to go out in public is to shoulder the burden of all the selves i once was, those big pink 1984 coke-bottle lenses and the gym suit with the bow around the waist and those times i didn’t know what to say so i got too loud and tittered at That Boy like a shrill macaw, all these Bonnies dragging around behind me like tin cans off a wedding jalopy. clang, they jar into my present, blurry shadows when i turn to look at them yet heavy still, time having layered them with the cement of self-consciousness and discomfort in my own skin. my tin can necklace, encrusted with pearls of shit.
elsewhere this accoutrement dissolves, worn away by years of learning to laugh at myself, to walk tall, but here the past sometimes is too much with me. here there is no distance from which to shed myself, those skins long outgrown and constricting.
i’ve been watching CBC online while nursing, watching Erica Strange wander through her own past to learn lessons missed along the way. i’m compelled by the show on one level. Erica’s ‘failed potential’ schtick resonates, though not quite so much as seeing my own wardrobe on tv for the first time ever…so what if its in all the 90s flashbacks? ahem. but on another level the premise frustrates, as stories of time travel so often do…if the Erica who goes back to the prom makes different choices than she did the first time ’round, wouldn’t the cumulative effects of the experience carry over into the intervening years, thus changing the person she ends up being at 32? or at least making different lessons necessary?
what keeps me glued to the screen is the hypnotic sense of homesickness that creeps over me every time Erica flashes back to an era i hadn’t ’til now fully realized was so long gone.
i would like, for an afternoon, to shed the years between now and 1992 just to go back and walk through that life, to revisit its minutiae. sure, it would be good to take a long, kind look in the mirror and see the beauty in that twenty-year-old face and twenty-year-old body and convince my twenty-year old self of both those things once and for all. and if i could walk once more into the high, cool foyer of my grandmother’s house and find her waiting, see her eyes glint blue for smiling at me…my joy would be without bounds. but that is too much to ask. i would settle for far less.
for one afternoon, i’d like to walk down the road that runs by my street and see it as it was seventeen years ago. not because i expect it was so terribly different, or better, or worse…rather because i’d like the luxury, now, of simply being present to it. i’d note whether the cars were bigger than i remember, the hair bigger, the peg-leg jeans as funny as i remember. i’d walk drugstore aisles and say, hallo there hair gel and salutations, photography film and yo, Snapple, did you change your packaging somewhere along the way? i would drink in all these once-familiar mundanities, walk through the old grocery store like a museum-goer, all enamoured by what was once just life.
i would say, this is 1992, and i would know that those were magical words.
the day-to-day is impossible to recall in detail once the backdrop changes. the dramas and hurts that get lived out over that background sometimes linger far too long. i wish i could shed the past and cradle it to me all at once, visit in doses like a favourite seaside rather than find myself drowning and sputtering in tides too strong only to be cast up on the shores of the unfamiliar future, unready to let go wholesale of worlds that once were mine.