This story is coming from a really nice prompt: Think of a place you went to when you were younger but it now no longer there or is something else. Capture your feelings about this in your writing. Just as a heads up for anyone I grew up with, I love all of you, and this is fiction. I take a lot from the real world, real memories, and turn them into a work of fiction. It’s all about making some kind of connection with the reader. I can’t do that unless I take something out of real life. So enjoy!
I hyped up my return a lot more than I should have. I didn’t realize it would all be gone. That place gave you a feeling deep down in your stomach that it would never go away, it would always be the same, it cannot disappear. But it did. All of it. You can’t recognize any of it. A part of yourself is lost, and it doesn’t sink in until you leave. You feel old, like when guys in sports get drafted and they’re younger than you, or when you’re talking to someone younger than you and they talk about their problems and it makes you angry because they aren’t old enough to understand that their problems won’t matter in five years, that they really aren’t problems compared to what you’ve already dealt with. I was hoping to escape all the drama back at home by coming back home, to my real home.
It didn’t disappear out of thin air. There’s no magic involved. But if you were around twenty years ago, you would never be able to recognize it. Every other building is run down. None of the stores or restaurants are open. They were all bought out years ago, according to one of the old guys that managed to stick around. He hated the noise when it was booming, but loved the scenery. Now that no one’s around, he can finally enjoy the peace and quiet he always longed for, despite the fact that his wife is dead and his friends moved years ago. I tried to find my old house, but that was burned down along with my school and half my block.
I thought about turning back before I was even half way there. Something subtle, like the air or wind, was wrong. It didn’t feel right. I was excited before I left, but once I did leave, regret started to sink in. I had to ignore it, though. Going home is always a good thing. Home and family are what makes you. When I saw it so run down, I wondered if that was my fate as well. I evaluated my life the entire trip. Did everything pan out the way I planned? Mostly. A few bumps in the road here and there, but I’m happy. But what was going to go wrong? What’s going to change that? These thoughts scared me. They made me want to go back.
No memories came back, either. The park was still there, which surprised me. We played baseball every day, every summer. What surprised me more was the mound was still slightly visible. We used it so much, the grass never had a chance to grow. The dirt must be pressed down so hard that grass will never grow again. It makes you wonder if grass ever grew there. When I look back, that spot was always there, from another group of kids, older than us, most likely. It’s not important, though. No one’s around to play.
There was never really anything great about our town. It seemed to be stuck in time. A place where you can leave your front door unlocked, the windows down on your car, where kids can ride their bikes together without adult supervision, from dawn to dusk. I remember having to be home before the streetlights came on, and always being late, and getting punished for it afterwards. It was always worth it. But outside of our group, our neighborhood, nothing else mattered. We didn’t need to make new friends because we had each other. Not until college did we finally branch out.
All my friends moved to different states. We don’t keep in touch. When you spend your entire life with the same people, you know what they’re going to say, what they actually meant, what their goals are, if they’ll achieve them, and how they’ll react when you say anything to them. It becomes pointless. But we can also meet up—we have in the past—and act like no time has passed at all. That’s the beauty of it. And you won’t get judged. Or you will, but you know they don’t mean it. When I drive around the neighborhood and I don’t see anyone outside, and everything closed or burned down, I realize I need my friends with me to truly appreciate what we had.
I hate it because I’m alone. When I lived here, I was never alone. Being alone is a foreign concept. I planned on spending the night in a hotel, calling up one of the guys to meet me here for a cup of coffee, but I don’t think I want to do that to them. They’re better off not knowing what this turned into. I hope I can forget this place as soon as possible. I knew there was a reason I moved. I didn’t realize I knew, but I remember the feeling I had on the way here was similar to the feeling I had back then when I used to say I would never leave. Maybe everyone had the same thought. Maybe that’s why the grass never grew back. Who would be there to see it?