It’s a strange sensation I feel when I walk through the old neighborhood where I was born and raised. There are familiar faces, houses and even some cracks on the sidewalk seem like the ones I once navigated over when I was a child riding my bicycle.

I left here 23 years ago, it was all I could do when she called me to tell me that she was marrying another man. It wasn’t a complete surprise but it still stung me and shook me to the core. All she could do to kill me was to leave a note on my windshield.

“Something tells me we will meet up again.” It was an act that seemed selfish, as if she wanted to make herself feel better; but I knew that it was meant for herself as much for me. The night she married I took the F train into the city, walked to Penn Station, took an Amtrak towards the west.

I met Lillian on the train from somewhere in Michigan heading into Chicago. We lasted until she got off at a middle of the night train stop in Missouri somewhere – she left a note for me as I lay sleeping. The note had three words and then her lipstick.

“Was fun, gotta go home now.”

I found my way down to Los Gatos in California. I was led there by another woman named, Danielle, who’s father worked at Netflix in some high powered job there. She promised me a job there and a place to live.

I lived with her and her sister for two years; working in the marketing department of Netflix for a while and then shifting over to work in San Jose at Happy Hollow Park Zoo for what seemed like eternity but in reality was only for a month. It was at the end of that month that I met Tracey, a graphic designer and recently a divorcee.

She was working at the cafe outside the petting zoo area; she managed the place from opening until 3pm. It began as a simple flirtation over coffee and it ended a month later in a heated argument over stupidity. I don’t even remember what it was about – but there was something about her that touched me deeper than the others. A certain sadness – similar to a child wakes up on Christmas morning with no toys or surprises.

Jamie was a blond haired, sunglass wearing, jeans with boots wearing rock n roll star who couldn’t carry a tune if it weighed an ounce. She wore tight cut off shirts with a black jean jacket and smoked camels. She was insatiable in bed and was open to trying anything and anyone. That lasted around 19 days or so; she left me with only a note that said, “It was fun, see you again.” That didn’t bother me although I never did sleep with anyone since who could turn a simple tumble in bed into a circus event with jugglers and clowns.

The Captain was an Alabama born and bred dark haired chubby chef on a cruise ship in Delray. She wore the captain’s hat, white t-shirt and cut off jeans shorts beneath her chef’s apron. She spoke in an exaggerated form of a Southern accent which at first was a major turn on but towards the end of the day was akin to a fork grating against a chalkboard. She cooked our last meal as the sun set over the water and threw it all overboard when I told her I would be heading home the next day.

On the way home I stopped in Chicago to meet an old friend. I ended up staying there for 20 years; married, had kids and divorced after 17 years of wedded blisters. The kids are alright I guess, I love them and take care of them when they need anything from an ear to a dollar or two. They still live with her which in itself is a miracle or a testimony of their ability to be loving and respectful to their parents regardless of how we inadvertently tried to screw them up.

I was feeling down and in need of some familiar change.

I had been home several times over the years for specific functions or events; arriving and departing based on the reasoning. I had not been back to my hometown for any extended period of time in over 20 years. I could not stay there for too long – the ghosts of my past would haunt me – it sounds childish but the anxiety level was off the charts. The thought of seeing Sherry was something he didn’t want to deal with.

It was several years ago when I caught up with her on Facebook. We chatted for a little while but when I heard that her husband was sick I backed off.

The train pulled into Penn Station and I felt a dread as if I had forgotten something, somewhere. I walked up the stairs, back pack in my hand and coat around my right shoulder. As we ascended up the escalator I felt a strange sensation of sadness.

Where had all the time gone? I ascended the escalator which led to the street and as the electronic stairs lifted me towards the pavement the sound of questions being screamed overwhelmed me.

“Taxi?”

“Come to the top of the Empire State building!”

“Tour bus?”

“Free paper, AM New York, AM New York.”

What seemed like thousands of voices, horns blaring and of course sirens. New York City madness in all it’s glory.

I walked towards sixth avenue to catch the F Train into Brooklyn, where I once called home. I walk down the stairs of the Kings Highway station and I feel a sense of dread.

It’s a strange sensation I feel when I walk through the old neighborhood where I was born and raised. There are familiar faces, houses and even some cracks on the sidewalk seem like the ones I once navigated over when I was a child riding my bicycle.

I left here 23 years ago and so many people have disappeared.

Old John is still running his pizzeria – must be close to 90 years old and the place still looks brand new.

I passed by and saw Jerry still alive and kicking in the variety store, the cigar is gone, it seems, but his woman is still by his side, silently running the register.

The grocery store has new owners, looks like Koreans with Mexican workers.

The Delicatessen has it’s gates down and a sign in the window that says, “Thank you for 50 years of letting us serve you, we know we did well because you all gained weight.” The inside is empty and a for rent sign hangs on the gate.

The bagel store is gone, replaced by a nail salon and the wine shop is now a “lingerie store.”

The building where Sherry lived and where we would sit on the roof listening to Bruce Springsteen and BIlly Joel, is still there. Graffiti on the side of where she once lived, bushes overwhelming the entrance and the first floor apartment windows.

I ended up at my brother’s house and we sat on the porch drinking beer and reminiscing. He had taken on my parents home and had kept it pretty much the same.

“It’s in good shape – only the plumbing and electricity needed updating.”

“It looks good.”

“I might sell it. No one is living here other than myself and Eva; the ghosts come out sometimes and bring me down. It’s hard getting old.”

“Don’t the grandkids visit?”

“Not often enough and Eva and me, well, it hasn’t been the same since…”

Hank had an affair with his secretary which ended when the secretary called Eva and told her all about their affair.

Eva, not wanting to lose her husband despite having lost him years before, gave him an ultimatum and he agreed to her demands. Which included firing his lover, retiring and putting the business into their son’s names.

“We go to Miami for the winter, what can I say? It’s not like I have any appetite for sex anymore.”

“You don’t?”

“Not really, I’d rather drink a couple of beers and watch a ballgame.”

“I prefer sex, but hey, we all have our vices.”

We laughed and I stood up to leave.

“Where you going?” He asked.

“I am going to see an old friend.” I smiled.

I walked across Ocean Parkway and rang the doorbell on the house where I knew she was living at. When she opened the door she gave me a smile, threw her arms around me and whispered in my ear.

I smiled.

Some things in life change, change and change.

Some things in life stay forever the same.

Other things just wait out their due course until the time comes to make the move.

That night we danced to some old songs, drank some wine and promised not to hurt each other.

Did we make love?

Did we even kiss?

A gentleman never tells.

I will say that we did walk across Ocean Parkway and made our way to the roof. We watched the sun go down over Mcdonald Avenue and the star appear. We drank some more wine and listened to Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. We danced to Anita Baker just as we had way back when and then I took her hand and we headed home.

Home again? This is not home anymore. Home is where my parents sheltered us and home is where the familiar glow from the TV lit up the living room, the scent of the steam coming up from the radiators warming up the house and fogging up the windows. The phone ringing and friendly voices on the other end. Home was the safe place that I had abandoned long ago – I needed to leave. I needed to break away. Looking back I think about the time that I lost with my parents, my family and friends and I wonder if what I gained in experience is worth all that I lost. My home was Chicago – my home was a small house in Highland Park with my wife and kids. But throughout this time there was always something missing, something just not right, something just not home. Not home. Home was Sherry and that is where I am now; home again.

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