The train that had dropped him at his hometown was long gone, but Lou was still standing in the station. His emotions were a medley of guilt, regret, longing, and enthusiasm. His fantasy of his return tricked him into believing that it would be a treat. Never once did his restiveness allow him to question the sanctity of it. Had he been more apprehensive, he would’ve been more prepared.
But he mustered the courage to go on. He stepped out of the station and decided to walk home. He wanted to look for familiar faces on the way and surprise them. As he walked more into the city, he noticed that many changes had taken place since he had left, but the town still seemed to carry a dreary, rustic spirit.
He was now keenly looking for anyone familiar, when his watchful gaze fell upon a damp alley towards his right. He only looked for a second, but that was enough to notice 3 hipsters lunging a knife at a terrified, puny man who probably refused to “co-operate”. He was petrified, but he quickly walked along, hoping that they didn’t notice him. Lou was now rambling. Nothing had changed. Mentally, he was taken back 20 years, to that horrible night in the market.
He was desperately trying to shake it off but it had caught him like a leech. He had assumed that he was inured to such atrocities, but how foolish of him to think that fleeing from them was the solution. Although, he was at least handling it better than the last time, given that now he was still in town. He continued on his aimless stroll, and a while later saw the vast corn fields. They only reminded him of how naive he had been. The carelessness, the insouciance, the countless hours spent being chased by the poor old farmer left him feeling ashamed.
He hoped his naivety could be forgiven and moved on. Heavy-hearted, he continued. Pensive and sad. A few lazy strides later, he was standing before Aunt Maira’s store. He entered hesitantly, like he did years ago when he knew he was going to be reprimanded. He walked inside, and greeted the wizened woman behind the counter. Aunt Maira recognized him instantly and was elated to see him return, but sadly, Lou couldn’t reciprocate. The apparent indifference confounded him but he could quickly discern why.
After seeing her, he was pricked by a sense of guilt. The woman had always tried to correct him, but all he ever did was wait for the candy. It gave him a niggling feeling now and he was desperate for some respite. He consoled his teary aunt and promised he would come to visit her again. He stepped outside and took a deep breath. He tried to collect his thoughts and calm his nerves. There was one final stop before he would go home to his mother and that spot was his “Happy Place”. He turned to the alley which was between her aunt’s store and the local grocery store. And once again he was inundated with memories of his past.
He playing with the toys, alone; Role-Playing games in which he was always the brave warrior whom everyone loved; Hiding from all the other boys; Making it his safe haven. He pitied himself. He hated himself for being a coward. For having a “happy” time by living in pretense. For never standing up to anyone. For running away.
It was all too much for him. It was not the welcome he had hoped for. Every dear memory of his had started to turn bitter, and by now he was starting to wonder if trying to relive them was a bad idea. Maybe sealing them away in the depths of his mind, unexplored and pristine, would’ve at least kept him happy. But unfortunately, he didn’t realize that he would then only be using a new pretense to shroud the old one.
He headed back to his home, shaking his head and cursing along the way. He was frustrated that the city hadn’t at all changed. And he was right. Everything was the same, only, he wasn’t.