I went back to my hometown.
In the supermarket I met a guy I’d been in a band with many years before.
He had changed.
I felt like he had changed more than I had changed.
He told me a strange story about his grandmother. She’d fallen down the stairs in her house and died. Now he was living there, in his grandmother’s house.
When I went to the bar, he was in the bar, too. This time we weren’t surprised to see each other.
I don’t remember what we talked about. Maybe he told me about his grandmother again. Or maybe he hadn’t told me about her in the supermarket and this was the first time. I really don’t remember.
I kept looking around the room for people I’d known when we were younger. There were a lot of people there. Most were my age or older, but I didn’t know any of them. Who were they? It was like the people who’d lived there when I’d lived there had been replaced by a new set of people who had nothing to do with me.
Then another guy I knew came in. He had the same first name as the guy I’d been in a band with, and, in fact, the two of them had been in a separate band together.
He shook my hand. Then he asked what it was like living in a foreign country. I told him it was great at first but that it progressively wore you down until you wished you’d never gone there.
But there was never any alternative, I said. Staying put would have killed me.
He said he couldn’t understand why anyone would leave our town in order to live in a foreign country. I shrugged. I couldn’t understand why anyone would stay in our town when there were foreign countries to go to. I didn’t say this, though. I didn’t want to sound like an asshole. Even after all these years, I wanted these people to like me.
After that we probably got drunk. What else were we going to do? I probably got drunker than the two of them put together since I didn’t have to worry about driving or getting up for work in the morning. At some point a guy at the bar said he remembered me from kindergarten. He seemed pretty excited about it. He smiled and shook his head like he couldn’t believe I was actually standing there, right next to him at the bar. I remembered him, too. He looked exactly the same, but bigger. I wondered if I looked that way to him. I felt more than just bigger. I felt alien. Because that’s what I had become — an alien. Secretly I doubted I’d ever been the child he was thinking of.
The next day I went to the airport and flew home with a hangover. I haven’t been back there since.
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