Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Memory Ln

One of the benefits of having a van as a home is that I get to live in all the neighborhoods I'd otherwise never dream of living in. My backyards are glistening lakes, my front yards are national forests. I owned a cozy home in downtown Chicago, I lived walking distance to Chatauqua Park in Boulder, on "The Hill" overlooking the University. I park in all the best neighborhoods, on all the best streets.

The view out my front door of my "van down by the river"

View from my bedroom off "Willy St" in Madison

My backyard in Lake Lahontan, Nevada

This week I parked on Memory Lane. I spent a week in my college town, Ann Arbor, walking the tree-lined streets and breathing the autumn air. I haunted my old life, jogging past my old houses, my old dorm, my old job. All inhabited by new souls, unfeeling, unaware of the history they were burying. My history.

"I used to run this store," I mentioned to the barista working behind the counter of the coffee shop I managed back in 2003. The monster of a cafe that ate up all my time that year, that clawed its way into my dreams for months after I quit, that I kept me up into the wee hours on a twelve foot ladder, painting the walls, the monster that shook me awake at 5:30am, tearing me out of my warm bed to go mop up two inches of water that covered half of the floor. This was the place where I met my husband, where we flirted for the first time over giant pots of brewed Tanzanian Peaberry, the place where I was forced to fire my friends, the snarling beast of a coffee shop where I fixed espresso machines, cleaned refrigerators, plunged toilets, repaired tables and chairs, balanced budgets, cried, fought, and laughed.

Nearly every day, I walked in the early morning darkness, arriving before dawn to try to tame this behemoth, the largest store in the corporation. After a year, I hung my head in defeat, dropped my sword and walked away, avoiding the bridges I had burned along the way.

And now? I'm completely disregarded by this punkass barista who doesn't know that he's walking on the floor I mopped, MY floor! He fails to realize that his job is built upon the legacy I left. I could work circles around him on that espresso machine, and do it with style. He didn't care. The bastard charged me full price. Of course he did. And he didn't even bow to me or anything. Kids these days. No respect, I tell you.

So I paid for my latte (mediocre), and walked past the studying college students. I was a college student once too, I wanted to tell them. I went to Michigan too, and studied at these tables while you were still in elementary school. You didn't write the book, you know. What about my history? I'm back here in this place, invisible, and nothing is the same. My friends are gone. I've moved on. Now you kids are taking over with your own stories, and they're probably better than mine. But what about MY past?

Maybe I am a ghost, doomed to haunt my own yesteryear forever. Maybe I died in a van accident on the way to Ann Arbor and haven't realized it yet. Maybe I'm not really even here. Maybe this is one of those dreams, the kind you vainly try to recreate for a friend, who struggles to keep her eyes from glazing over as you speak. "I was in my old dance studio, only it wasn't really my dance studio, it was different, and everybody was older and fatter, and no one could hear me when I spoke, and I tried to do a leap but my body was a marionette and responded with an awkward delay, and my dance teacher cried, and then I looked down and realized I was naked."

Navigating my past as an adult has helped me wrap my mind around reconciling the child I was with the woman I've become. When I set out on this trip, I did so with the intention of figuring out Who I Am. I think part of that is revisiting my past, owning that it's a piece of the puzzle that is Eva Darling, and then letting it Rest In Peace. I'm a sentimental gal, and recognizing that the golden years are dead and gone allows me to let go of them, honor them, and promptly get to work creating new golden years. Seeing who I was and where I've been fills in part of the story, but releasing the ghost of my past from purgatory leaves me with a blank page on which to start a new chapter. Where will this woman go next, and what will her values be? Who will she love? Which talents will she discover in herself? What will her weaknesses be? But the most terrifying question, the one I'm not quite ready to answer, is, who am I at this very minute?

"The past is a ghost, the future is a dream, and all we ever have is now."

-Bill Cosby

If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell.
Just like an old time movie, 'bout a ghost from a wishing well.
In a castle dark or a fortress strong, with chains upon my feet.
You know that ghost is me.
And I will never be set free as long as I'm a ghost that you can't see.

-Gordon Lightfoot


Shannon said...

I love this post.

Susie/Susan said...

Your blog is like a really great book. I'm going to need you to write more and more often because like a good book, when you get to the end, you are kind of sad and miss it...