The first thing that came to mind was Brookings, Oregon. Actually, that was the second thing that came to mind, the continuation of an even more vague idea. All the books I had bought or found on a whim, that I had read the first few pages of, and set down somewhere. Sometimes those books become part of the boxes: the things I shuffle from place to place. I have a stack of them next to my bed right now. I have a garage full of books, somewhere, each one a little afternoon or weekend adventure that almost happened, a bookmark or business card tucked in the first few pages, so I can go back to 2015 or 2013 or 2009 and slip right back into letting my mind float away on something to be relaxing, or life changing, or both.
And that brought me back to Brookings, Oregon, where in December of 2012, I went to teach community college, only to return home after seven months that still hurt me to think about today. It was a time in my life when I couldn't seem to find any purchase. And I thought about Brookings as I first imagined it, the Brookings of my dreams, a cute little town with the buildings clustered close to each other and where neighbors said hello over coffee and pancakes during the morning in a cafe. Not the sprawling, centerless mass bisected by a five lane highway. And I think about my own self-image when I went there: well-educated young man about town, enjoying nature and the eccentric characters and places of a small town. And then, as is my wont, I went back to Google Maps and looked at Brookings again. I was older now, I had lived elsewhere, I had lived in foreign countries, and maybe if I went back there now, I could just enjoy the beautiful nature, enjoy seeing something new, and undo my bad experience of years previously. Looking at a map, a few things had changed: the Grocery Outlet has moved into the former location of Ray's Food Place, and The Dollar Tree has moved into the location of the old Grocery Outlet. But overall, it is probably the same. If I went back today, though, I wouldn't be trapped. What could I do if I was back in that empty, too-big apartment, enjoying my comfort again, enjoying microwave macaroni and cheese and one dollar bottles of wine, could I go back and just start over again? Turn those victories into wins? Save scum the worst year of my life?
In my mind, sometimes I think I can open up that old apartment, the one on Easy Street, and the smells, textures, feelings, even the quality of light will be exactly the same as in 2013, and I can pick up one of my many books, with a little business card tucked in the first few pages, and read it in serenity, and finally conquer 2013. But no, things are not where I left them. Even when they are. I can find that book, that cassette tape that meant so much to me, still in a box, find a letter and respond, but those things are not where I left them, even when they are.