This weekend, we took a last minute trip up to Cosmopolis. That city is dipped in nostalgia for me. It drips with it. It's sticky; it is a series of postcards of a place I visited before I became something else, and each spot of importance is a button for a novel's worth of memory.

It used to hurt to see it, but I still yearned to go back and soak up how it felt to be in a place that I remembered and that remembered me, a place filled with the flavour of history that Cityville had yet to obtain. I used it to remind me of who I no longer was and also to show me what I was not even then. It was as though I wanted to beat it into myself. All the places I no longer lived in or frequented showed where I was not. The self I knew best was a negative space in another city.

It was less the place and more the time that I couldn't let go. The Fiery One and I would head back to Cityville after a visit, and I would spend the next week dissecting my life. I am not writing novels, I would admonish, I am fatter, I still smoke, I didn't finish my university degree. I would convince myself that I had not really moved ahead, that I was still all the sad things about me that I was in the 1990s.

I was wrong, of course. It was more difficult than I would consciously admit to become a married woman and move to another city after living in the same one for almost twenty-one years. I was just in the process of establishing myself in Cityville, and my lack of roots was showing.

While the Fiery One was taking a nap late Saturday afternoon, I took the opportunity to run around my old neighbourhood on my own, and I was surprised by how I felt about it. It wasn't so much like an old bruise anymore. I felt less muddled. I wasn't shifting in and out between the me now and the me then in some weird warp of memory and time.

For instance, this following photograph is of the first building I lived in when I moved into that neighbourhood. It has always been a little difficult to look at, as though if I were to stare too long at the second balcony from the top right, I would see C and myself dangling our feet over the edge, smoking cigarettes and wearing nothing but a length of purple cloth she had lying around.

apartment building

Back then, I claimed that I had no sense of nostalgia. I believed that it was a disease of the mind and was happy to have somehow missed it in my chemical makeup. What I didn't realize was that I was in the middle of the first segment of my life that I had ever felt an active part of; I didn't know then that I was only experiencing a healthy lack of nostalgia for a childhood endured and gladly left behind. I had been activated like a dormant gene and was individuating wildly.

And now that I've been acknowledging the changes occurring in my life here as things I am a part of rather than things that are happening to me, these nostalgic soft spots lose a little of their sensitivity. Time becomes less of a whirlpool to drown in and more of river to swim in. I looked up at that apartment building on Saturday afternoon, and it was its own place separate from me. I stood on a stretch grass a few hundred feet away, small in a large space, quite alone and no longer perpetually entwining my legs around that balcony's railing.

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