By Mike Raab
The last time I visited my hometown, it was for my friends.
I hadn’t spoken to them in years, not since I graduated from high school and moved to the big city. Small towns were never really my thing, but I was feeling nostalgic and thought I’d stop by. We were standing outside a pizza restaurant. I remember feeling out of place—years of being in the city, where it rained constantly, had gifted me a closet of dull tones and long trench coats, dim against their flashy patterns and glittering wedding rings.
The clouds heavy with rain had followed me from my apartment, so it was raining then, and I was wishing I could go home and read next to my leaky windows. Mirabel and her friends all had flashy umbrellas and I slumped under my hood.
I watched—bored by the girls’ talk about their kids and husbands—the frail bird’s nest in the O of the restaurant’s name, which I can’t recall anymore. The egg, speckled and perfectly oval, faced pelting of wind and rain before plummeting to the ground.
It made a noise I figured sounded like a heart breaking upon impact. Cracking on the pavement, yolk bleeding into the ground before being washed away. All I could do was stare in silence. My vision blurred, colors swimming into each other, and I lifted a hand to my cheek. It was damp and salty. I don’t think it was because of the rain.
Green feathers decorated Mirabel, the color of emeralds and fresh spring grass. It was her birthday. Her boa wrapped around her neck, fluffy and fake, and I imagined it coming to life as a real snake and strangling her. I don’t think I would have been sad.
Mirabel had made a joke earlier when I was the last to arrive. “It’s nice to see your timeliness hasn’t changed since you’ve been away.” Everyone had laughed. They always would.
Inside the pizza restaurant, the lights were dim and golden. The air was heavy with something unfamiliar, and it burned against the back of my tongue. I ran outside to escape it, gasping for clean air. I’d spent every weekend for as long as I could remember eating there, and all it took was a handful of years for it to become completely unrecognizable.
When I regained my composure, I lifted my head to the heavens and closed my eyes. I walked away from the people who knew the old me and didn’t want to get to know this new version. I didn’t pick any particular direction. All I could think of was how I didn’t even recognize my hometown anymore. Did I change, or did everyone else? Did it matter? I didn’t fit anymore. I doubt I ever did.
The rain had washed away the broken egg, and it had washed away the memory of me too. Despite being in a town as small as this, I would never be remembered. I wondered if my parents even still had framed pictures of me on their walls.
No one waved at me as I walked. I recognized them, but they didn’t recognize me. I was a stranger in my own home.
Could I even call it that?
Did I have a home? I had a house, certainly. An apartment that served its purpose. But I didn’t really think of it as a home.
I stopped, eventually, and had no idea where I was. I found my phone and called a taxi to take me back to the city. Maybe the driver would remember me through the dollar bill. It was a foolish hope, but I didn’t care. If no one else, I wanted a random stranger to hold the memory of me in their heart. It was obvious by now I wouldn’t be remembered for doing anything great, nor by an adoring family.
Since that day, I haven’t seen or spoken to Mirabel and her crowd. I don’t think they even noticed my absence.
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