I've been walking my town since I first strolled the three blocks to kindergarten. After 30 years, I look for a new path, some place I haven't been before, but the WPA sidewalks and old lady Victorians and neat lawns and fog feel comfortably familiar. I've lived in three houses in this town, worked for six businesses, gone to three schools, and taught at two. I know my way around.
Yes, occasionally it surprises me. I turn a corner and there they are. My ghosts live here too.
A certain slant of light or smell of a flowering tree and suddenly the street I walk my daughter to school on is again the place where 40-year-old men molest little girls. That nice Craftsman in my neighborhood turns back into the house where the young mother was chopped up. I snuck out of that window in that flat-roofed ranch home to go to a wild party when I was 13.
The other night I turned onto a street I walk several times a day to find the cold air and peach streetlight and hurt transport me to the town across the river the night I learned to be afraid. More than 20 years later I almost couldn't breathe.
I'm guessing that people who move around more in their lives experience the same kind of déjà vu but with less warning. I mean, I at least know where some of the minefields are on the map. But that also means I sometimes want to leave this map for awhile, walk new streets for a weekend, have new thoughts and see what that gets me.