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  • The one thing that made me leave was the old me.
    The version that rural midcoast Maine had of me—has, in fact. Each time I go back to visit, I see her again, become her again, at least partially. She seems to have had her growth arrested at awkward teenager, and remains the brown-nosing student, the one who had such a firm grip on herself. She hardly ever released into a good time. I see her reflected in the friendly greeting of my old English teacher, now a hostess at the one café in town. The old me is there when, at a neighborhood bar, I run into boys I alternately crushed over and hated in high school. Still not cool, no matter how cool I’ve become. And that’s really it: I like who I’ve become, the woman whom these years away in an assortment of other cities and towns have made me. It irks me that she goes into a kind of hiding at times back home, afraid she’ll come across as bragging about her big adventurous life to the people who stayed. Slightly embarrassed of so many things she prizes as accomplishments. We make small talk at that bar, some version of me and the people she once hung out with. And it’s as if our lives diverged, and are now hard to reconcile in conversation. One friend has several children; another has a job decorating cakes at the grocery store. I remember that she taught me to apply thick black smudges of eyeliner and that she watched “Sid and Nancy,” sighing over it, finding it romantic instead of depressing. We had parallel dreams at one point, as matched as our crimped hair. But I left. She stayed. And now I don’t call her so much when I visit home. She’s not the version of me I want to see—the one who, in the smallness of this place, retained the old, instead of shedding it. Of course, this is my assumption. I don’t know how the years have made her new, how this place may have evolved to house that new self. For me, it’s time travel going home. It’s a place that, no matter how beautiful it is, how beloved, couldn’t contain who I wanted to be.
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