The strange thing about coming back to where you were weaned is that everywhere you go there is a memory lurking around the corner. There, the beach where you would hang out after school; there, the street where you first made out with some girls; there, the restaurant that you first ate duck in when you were sick and it was your birthday . . . Things that you’d forgotten about completely, that were no longer even relevant (or so you’d thought) to your self-conception, begin springing back up as if they’d just been pooling dormant there beneath your skin, only to be triggered by the moonlight on the waves, by the scent of something in the air, the subconscious adherence to the same old car routes. And it makes you wonder: is all of this quite as bad as you remember? You’d relegated most of this past here in this city to the trash heap already, but you find yourself unable to step apart from this wreckage of your past associations and look at it all anew. This city, to you, will always be the city that you once thought you knew so intimately and so disassociatively as a youth: excessive boredom, nights spent in the backseats of cars, hazed eyes and meandering conversations on the meaning of life, drumming in the full moon on the beach, first love, pushing back the boundaries of every convention you could while still being lazy, desire, loneliness, depression, self-absorption, friendship. Sunny days, warm nights, your first Benson and Hedges menthol cigarette, listening to the waves breaking along the shore, watching sunsets, running, finding yourself, hating yourself. This city was never good enough. You were never good enough. You had to leave, and swear never to return again.
And now stepping back into this (temporarily), after you had conveniently forgotten all of yourself that you had left behind, is a strange circumstance. You want to see all of this without the recollections of your past imposed on all of its surfaces, but you find yourself unable to break completely from what you once were. You are still that person, you are still all of those experiences, all of those places, all of those moments. For all of the failing that you see in this city, you see it in yourself, still. Because you can’t shed it all completely and look at it with alien eyes. Like a spurned lover, like a prodigal son, this place defines you still in absence. You can never leave it completely behind. You can never leave yourself completely behind.