Driving into town, the river looked different–not smaller the way things do after years away, but less private. Forty years before, the river had seemed to begin and end within the distance I could walk from my home in an afternoon, but now it came out of the hills and ran alongside the highway from Madison twenty miles north of town, bending back and forth through farms and fields and past Calamine, a cluster of abandoned buildings.
When the highway became became Minerva Street inside the city limits of my hometown, the houses looked familiar though more worn out, and the names of the people in them would be familiar to me; but I knew that the faces of those who remained would be as unrecognizable to me as I mine had become to them, our bodies having corroded into the shapes of the old people we had run by on the street, for each of us had become passengers in out of date vehicles in varying states of repair.
When I reached Main Street, I pulled to the curb and walked to a bench in the park through which I had once walked to the Carnegie library. The sign in front of what had been the library announced that the building now contained the law offices of Schultz, Schultz, and McGranahan. Across the street, the soldier’s monument still stood on the boulevard that split Main Street into northbound and southbound lanes; and cars still slowed as they neared the grade school on the next block; and the county court house still stood on the opposite side of the street from the park, but none of it was really the same. The people who came in and out of the buildings–inevitably on the same errands that someone else had run forty years before–made it seem as if the town were doing a revival of my memory; but the cast, and the props, and the music coming from the passing cars were all wrong. Everything had changed.