There are ghosts in our house and they look like us; haunting moments trapped in time.
I've always associated things and places to people and experiences.
A Toyota 4-Runner reminds me of my first long-term boyfriend in high school; Hooters reminds me of the only Valentine's Day Mat and I celebrated together during our five years of dating. (I begged Mat to take me because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It was our first and only time to visit, and Mat bought me a shirt to take home because, irony.)
I was sitting on the couch last night and glanced into the kitchen. I could see Mat and I standing there, five years ago, me crying mascara streaks onto his shirt. I was struggling with my new role as a pastor's wife, feeling very alone, misunderstood, and rejected. I hated going to church and I felt trapped in our marriage. I knew I wanted Mat, I just wasn't sure I wanted a life in ministry.
Driving downtown, I park on 4th to walk to The Spar for a hard cider and some quiet time to myself to write. A large cement planter stops me in my tracks. It was here I sat, swaying back and forth, trying to understand why two drinks got me so drunk while waiting for Mat to pick me up. I was at a bar with girlfriends and left my vodka cranberry unattended just long enough while playing darts; two of us were roofied but we both managed to get our husbands to us in time. A man hit on me that night, "If you're at the bar without your husband, it can't mean you have a good marriage. If you did, he'd be here with you." I was sick for three days.
Sitting at the pizza parlor down the street, I remember asking a girlfriend - the last friend I'd ever label as my best - to meet me there so we could talk and work through an issue we were having. She never showed, left a nasty message on my cell phone, and wouldn't answer any of my calls. When she found out my husband and I were moving, she and a few of her friends - who used to be my friends - egged my car.
Coming back to a place I've left always does this to me.
If I want to remember my childhood, I go to Texas; my teenage years, Alaska; my twenties, Washington; and so far, Oregon for my thirties. But I've never moved back to a place where my memories are so thick and retrievable.
There are people I see at the grocery store, the local Regal cinema, or even at Target that I recognize; their faces eerily familiar, but they are strangers. I used to go to church with some of them. I used to work with some of them. I used to sit on their couches and drink wine on Thursday nights watching saved episodes of Grey's Anatomy. I used to know them; they look the same, it's like nothing has changed - but everything feels different.
It feels like we have taken a huge step back, and yet we are in the future. The future that is now the present. I tell myself we have failed; it being the only reason I ever saw us returning to this place. And yet, I know there is new, good life to be had here.
I've forgotten that I've forgiven this city - for the tears, the drunken growing pains, the broken friendships. It's a one-sided reconciliation; when you leave, you don't necessarily need the other party to do their part in making things right. It's easier to forgive when there is distance between you, but it's the forgetting that haunts you, especially when you never expected you'd have to face it again.
And it's hard to believe I'm a good person here. I am constantly reminded of a past version of myself. When I see her I walk through her, but instead of disappearing she's inside me. My skin chills to goosebumps and I expect to see my breath when I exhale.
I am haunted by myself.
I know this place is right for our waiting - while we discover what is on the other side of leaving church ministry - but I'm not always sure why. My patience is being tried, my resolve tested. I didn't know I'd be affected by this town in quite this way.
This house is not our home, and these ghosts are not welcome. I've never been more thankful for the knowledge of what is temporary. So we are moving forward, making plans and breaking them, trying to understand what we're supposed to be learning on this leg of the journey.