Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ghost Hunting

A couple of weeks ago, I went back to a small town in Iowa to attend my 20-year college reunion. Twenty years! Remembering the uncertainly I felt when I left that place and how I was so stuck and unclear about how to move forward, it's hard to believe that time has elapsed so quickly.

It was a strange experience. So many of my old haunts just aren't there anymore. They've been torn down for newer on-campus offerings or, oddly, are buildings that look the same on the outside but have been gutted and reconfigured within. The house where I had my first great love affair and lost my virginity is now a parking lot. Lee's cold, dimly-lit basement room with its off-white-painted and poster-covered cinder block walls and green astro-turf-style carpet exist now only in my memory.

The places that are mostly unchanged feel so much smaller than I remember. The brown house where I lived. The library. All seemed diminutive and cloyingly foreign.

And the oddest thing of all is that even though my exact campus, circa '85, isn't there, there were moments when I caught myself expecting to see people I knew. Not as they are now, but as they were then. Lee riding his silver bike down the Mall wearing a tan Member's Only jacket, his shaggy blue/black hair shining in the sun. Noelle carrying her books into the Student Union sporting a red plaid cotton blouse and an au currant hairstyle that is now disparagingly known as a mullet.

In those flickering moments bathed in the light of Indian Summer, my heart hoped so much to see them. But they just weren't there. Those ghosts don't haunt the small-town hang-outs and silent class rooms of Iowa. I guess the only place I'll find them, if the mood strikes, are in the dusty and yellowing photo albums that lay out of sight under my dresser.

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