The Friday before my 17th birthday, my grandparents came to visit. They only stayed a few hours, most of which I was at school, but they wished me happy birthday and gave me a check for $25. That evening, with cash to burn, I headed downtown. Little did I know when I parked my yellow Huffy, not only was I going to revisit old memories as I wandered, but I was going to learn a lot.
First up: the local art shop that I went to on my first date with the girl who broke my heart and stole my Moana sandwich box. At first I was hesitant to go in. What if I saw something that reminded me of her? Worse yet, what if she was there? I put my worries aside and walked in, immediately enchanted by all of the locally sourced prints and pins and soaps and clothes. There were so many things that I wanted to buy, but nothing quite captured me like the coloring book depicting flowery versions of the human anatomy. I picked up a copy and headed over to the register.
“I love it in here,” I mused to the cashier, a friendly woman in her mid-20s. “Haven’t been in in almost two years, though.” This seemed to pique her interest, so I continued: “Last time I was in here, I was on a first date, but things didn’t end well, and I was avoiding bad memories.”
She nodded knowingly. “Well, almost the whole store’s changed since then,” she offered, leaving me to contemplate change as I thanked her and left the store.
Next, I headed over to the coffee shop I hadn’t been to since that same first date. That day, I had been so nervous, I hardly ate anything while we were there. Now, I got myself a cookie dough macaron and a potato salad, which was really just small potatoes and seasoning with a thick dressing to dip them in, but it was delicious, so who am I to judge?
I didn’t spend much time at the coffee shop, opting to take my food and wander into the record store across the street. I remember going into that store when I was 13, desperate to seem edgy and cool by buying a Jefferson Airplane record that I never listened to. Salad in hand, I went to see if they had any Mariah Carey (they didn’t) and left without buying anything.
My last stop was an arcade-slash-soda bar I had been to a few times with my friends back in freshman year. Friends I haven’t spoken to in months. Friends I don’t particularly care to speak to again. The arcade was now dimly lit and pulsing with loud music, but still, I could play Pac-Man, and still, I was terrible at it.
As I got on my bike and started for home, I thought about what I’d learned from this wandering and decided that the past can hurt, but maybe the present can heal.