To all the hometown girls

I wanted to go. I really did. It had been exactly half of my lifetime, and I hadn’t seen any of them for at least that long. So I rode past the cemetery where friends rest, past the factory where I worked for one restless summer, and along the riverbank and into the past.

The warm-up parties were in full swing in the hotel in which I’d registered. I could hear them all as I checked in and found my room: women and men, voices too loud, trying to have too much fun.

She had seen too much sun. Wrinkled. Sun-damaged skin. Still pretty. But immensely aged. I used to chase after her when I was drunk. That was back in my drinking days, of course, when I lived here. Now she was just – different. A lifetime different.

And if I hadn’t been introduced to her, I’d not have known who she was.

I’m sure she wouldn’t have known me either.

During Friday night’s warm-up for out-of-towners I watched a friend greet a former girlfriend – both married to others now: the way each looked at the other for far too long; the hug that lasted too long. And all this in front of his wife. Had I not been temporarily dumbfounded I’d surely have made a feeble joke, tried to draw the wife away from the embarrassment of the moment. But I couldn’t.

So much for the evening’s warm-up for out-of-towners.

About a thousand were scheduled to attend Saturday’s event. I walked into that morass of humanity, looked around for a couple of minutes, and then turned around and walked out and away from the past. I never looked back.

So, here’s to all the hometown girls, to all of you who broke my heart, to some of you who didn’t, to the ones whose hearts I broke:

You’re in my memories, to remain forever young.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t bring myself to see you all, but I know you’re just as beautiful now as you were back then.

And I adore you all to this very day.

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