A little piece I wrote inspired by a writing prompt from 642 Things to Write About, a wonderful little book for a writer, aspiring or professional.
The train is riding down to the station where you lived when we were school kids. The howl of its horn jolts me out of my daydream, my daydream about what words, if any, I’ll be able to muster when I see you for the first time in nearly a decade. Perhaps a simple Hello will suffice, or maybe all of the emotions I’ve occasionally pondered, sometimes obsessed over, will come pouring out of me like cold water from the spicket on a hot July day, relieving the thirst I’ve had for so long to tell you how I feel. I’m here for you, and I’m so scared, but I’m here, back home, for you.
It wasn’t hard leaving home when I did. It wasn’t sad or scary or daunting. It was actually quite easy. I knew for a fairly long time that I was going to leave this place, that I HAD to leave this place as soon as I could. There was nothing here for me. My parent (no “s,” just one) was gone, I didn’t have any real friends (besides you), and I certainly wasn’t going to turn into one of “those guys.” You know who I’m talking about. The guys you see slumped over the bar at 50 years old after a long day working in the mill, smelling like sweat and booze and grains, telling stories about the glory days as the star running back of the Slocum High School Raider’s football team. The kind you see as a fresh-faced 21 year old and think to yourself, “God, I will never be like that.”
Except most people do turn out that exact way. They’re born in a small town and they die in that very same small town, with nothing to look back on with a smile. I knew I couldn’t do that with my life. I needed something more. I needed to see the world. I needed to experience things, absorb the cultures of others. No, it wasn’t hard leaving this town at all; except for one thing.
You were my best friend since that day you skinned your knee on the playground of 5th Street Elementary and I walked up to you and asked if you were okay and you looked up at me with those blue eyes full of soul (even at the age of 7) and nodded your head and I shared my Bomb Pop with you and we laughed about Ms. Carnet’s big, lumpy butt. You let me copy your homework for Ms. Grey’s 6th grade math class when I forgot to do it. You let me slow dance with you at the Sophomore Semi, even as your date looked on menacingly like he wanted to punch a hole right through my face, so I wouldn’t feel left out standing against the wall watching all the other kids hold their crushes. You were the only friend who showed up at my Mom’s funeral when she passed. You were my everything, and I wanted so badly to stay here with you and start a life together, but I just couldn’t spend one more second here than I had to. My heart was screaming for somewhere else. So at 18 years old, just 3 days out of high school, I packed my stuff in that old, brown, off-brand suitcase you bought for me at the flea market that one time, hugged my Aunt Lucy goodbye and caught the 7:55 train North to New York.
And now I’m back.
Don’t ask me what sort of strange, cosmic force compelled me to venture back to the town I grew up in, because I couldn’t tell you why. I’m doing just fine in New York, better than fine actually. I’m doing well! I’m thriving! I’ve got a great job doing what I love, I’ve got great friends who I can actually relate to, a nice little 1 bedroom apartment in Green Point, even a little goldfish named Oscar who still seems to love me no matter how many times I forget to feed him. But here I am anyway, approaching Blue Street Station, staring at the endless farmland sauntering by as my body jerks lightly forward from the air brakes of the Amtrak train, and all I can think about is you, and what I’m going to say.