“Nothing lasts forever,
That’s the way it’s gotta be.
There’s a great black wave in the middle of the sea.”
The Arcade Fire, “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations”
I spent the last weekend, Friday through Monday morning, in the cluster of small Indiana towns that make up where I came from. I went to spend time reconnecting with my brothers and to see a boat race that used to be the most important day of my year. I saw old friends and fell in love with those friendships all over again. My family and friends really made me feel like I was home. I made sure to give each of my friends a strong hug as we said goodbye on the upper deck of the Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun, Indiana on Saturday night, then I walked at the back of the pack so they wouldn’t see me wipe away tears. I did the same thing as I hugged my family members goodbye over the following days.
Because, as special as all those folks are to me, everything else wore me down.
My hometown-that I originally loved, then decided to run away from-isn’t there anymore. There are a few withering cells left: the Gold Star Chili and the Skyline Chili. One of the used car lots is still there, and the Tandy’s IGA is still standing, but the spreading cancer of “progress” is all over the place. I found a strip mall almost a half-mile long where a beautiful hillside home used to be. Maybe another dozen dotted Highway 50 between Aurora and Lawrenceburg. I couldn’t see my high school from the road because the new middle and elementary schools block the view. Rising Sun, a tiny river town, now has a fire station bigger than Austin’s.
The people are still there, though. They still seem suspicious and a little sad, kind of like people everywhere. I won’t lie and say it didn’t hurt when I received more than a few of those “You’re not from around here, are you?” looks, because maybe I never was. Maybe I spent twenty-two years faking it.
Then again, maybe I do belong there. Maybe that’s why my friends just happened to be in town on Saturday. Maybe that’s why Randall drove all the way from Florence to Rising Sun late at night to hang out with us for a few hours.
Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe there’s a magic family members and friends share, something that reaches through the years and just feels right.
And maybe that’s enough. I hope so.