Saturday, 22 December 2018

Ghost Town

I start to feel on edge a couple of motorway junctions away. This is the town I grew up in, but it’s not home.

I’m here visiting my brother – he and I are what’s left of our family. We walk through the town centre, where the air is full of familiar accents and bad memories. He says I seem distracted, asks if I’m OK.

I’m remembering the smell of the market that isn’t here any more, the name of the shop where we got our school uniforms, the taste of cheap fishsticks. I’m thinking that this is the street we walked down pretty much every Saturday except the one when the bomb went off. How lucky we were not to be there. How lucky we were that the violence was all nonlethal and contained at home. I’m remembering that he’s dead now. We sold his house to a developer, and the developer gutted it to make it sellable. If we drive past it later, it will be different. Maybe there’s another young family in there now. Maybe the dad is violent. Maybe not.

And I’m angry that my mind is going to these places. I resent the space that these thoughts are taking up. I’m furious with myself – why haven’t I done a better job of moving on? I feel guilty for raking over this again when so many people have had it so much worse. I’m ashamed of allowing the past to run riot in my head. I’m embarrassed about startling at every unexpected noise.

Then, finally, I'm allowing it all to wash over me.

I say “Yeah. It’s just weird to be back.”

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