Visit Home: March, 2006
I hadn't been back to Hattiesburg in months—since after the Big
Storm slammed in and blew the houses, trees and people around
like 52 Card Pick Up.
Walking around town, through my old neighborhood and on the
college campus, I inexplicably found myself searching for people I
expected to see—classmates, teachers, lovers, rivals—but who had,
instead, otherwise gone on and found new lives. See, I expected them
to be there, like life hadn't gone on, but I had, and they should be
there for me—like they were actors in my drama.
The arrogance of that thinking didn't faze me, though. I still
left business cards twittering in doorframes and in mailboxes. I
dialed numbers from memory—10 and 15 years of memory—and got wrong
numbers and hang-ups. I stood in carports, like a stalker, then
remembered that my friends had moved on. I crept away, strange dogs
barking behind glass.
This person lived here. That person died there. We had such a
good time that night. God, I got so, so crazy fucked up. Does it all
seem smaller to you?
I found myself looking for the younger, stupider version of me,
haunting old classrooms and offices at the campus. Instead, I just
saw the older, wise enough to know how stupid I am version.
This was craziness, to look for the past and expect to find it. I
stood under one of the live oaks and told myself to stop fucking up
so much, to accept people for who they were, to stop holding on and
let go, to not be jealous, to stop being hardheaded, to realize that
it's all craziness—all of it. I felt my eyes welling up, thinking
about all this what-not swirling in my head, these lost strands and
people, cut and pasted again and again over memories upon memories.
A girl, maybe 20 years old, stopped in front of where I stood.
She wore cowboy boots, jeans torn so perfectly at the knee that they
looked as if they were torn by professionals and a diamond under her
lower lip. Her brown hair framed her cheeks.
"Hey. Like, are you OK?"
I realized I had been talking to myself. Not loudly, mind you,
but enough to call attention to myself.
More scared that I had not noticed this than embarrassed, I ran
back to my car as fast as I could.
A native of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Kevin Walters has
recently completed a novel and is preparing to work on another. His
fiction and nonfiction have appeared in both online and hard copy
publications. He currently lives in Nashville.