I went to Universe City a week and a half ago, just for a night, for the birthday party of a friend of mine. I drove down after my Spanish lesson, and because of traffic concerns, I took a route into town that I never took while I lived there. I drove up the hill behind my old house without passing it. I parked at a corner that I rarely saw.
And then I went into the backyard and snuggled a baby for three hours.
I love it when my friends provide me with babies to snuggle. My friends love eating with both hands. It's a perfect party tradeoff.
We went out to a college bar, later, one I'd never been in before (we did not bring the baby), and the birthday person got drunk enough that he spilled a beer on himself and I had to put a plastic garbage bag (that was handily in my trunk - always prepared) down on his seat before I drove him home.
The thing about staying in a house with three drunk friends is that you will never get to sleep because every time you attempt to walk toward the bathroom with your toothbrush in your hand, one of them will start talking to you and three hours will pass before you finally have to go to bed right now or the world will end. (I get serious about my sleep.)
In the morning, driving through town to meet the baby (and some grownups, I suppose) for brunch, the whole place seemed so small and old. It felt like the past, somehow, even as I was there.
It's the same. I know it's the same. I drove down the same roads with the same buildings on either side every day for two and a half years. I could drive that route through downtown in my sleep. And yet. Even in only six months, the buildings seemed to have shrunk. The sidewalks seemed dirtier.
I got the same iced chai in my old coffee shop, with the big south-facing windows, but the servers were different, and they didn't know my drink.
I don't fit there anymore, and that makes me happy, and that makes me sad. I made some great friends in Universe City - you need friends more there than here, where so much is going on all the time - but my life isn't there, anymore. I've escaped, and what I still feel most, leaving, is relief.