"I buried her a thousand times."
- Jason Isbell, "Elephant"
Before I started to get too sick on Sundays - sick with withdrawal - Sunday's used to be my day of walking. Walks were my way of battling the depression that inevitably followed heavy drinking binges. As I started in on the road to recovery, my walks became fewer and fewer as I gradually discovered, with awe, the novelty of a Sunday unblemished by booze. Now more than a year sober, they have all but faded into the past.
An unseasonably warm Sunday today, though, stirred my soul with adventure and nostalgia. I grabbed my car keys and hit the road to Ann Arbor, not thinking much of it.
In the years following my graduation from Michigan, I walked the streets of Ann Arbor endlessly: sometimes brimming with whiskey on those debaucherous, thinly-veiled attempts to recapture college; sometimes sick with depression in the following days, my heart feeling as if it had been torn open and sewed back in haphazardly, in a way that would never again feel mended. But in the course of these jaunts there was always one street I avoided: Greenwood. Greenwood was the street on which my college girlfriend lived for two years, the place where I slept every single night of my senior year. I couldn't ever bring myself to face it.
When I arrived at my old college house this evening, I paused to look up at the third floor window that I used to inhabit, incredulously thinking about the years that have already passed since that magical time. It was with surprise that I found myself thinking that I wanted to make that walk from my college house to her house on Greenwood one more time. Out of sheer habit I tried to wash my mind of the idea, as in the past my survival instincts would usually kick in at this point and tell me this was a foolish idea; in retrospect it is a testament to my well-being then that for a long time seeing that house would have crippled me. It felt like something I had to do, though: to bury her one final time.
I walked underneath the tennis shoes strung up on the telephone wires that run along Greenwood Street, feeling like an old man. Inside the windows of those houses were college students who I could no longer identify with, each one of them unaware of the significance of simply walking down that street for the 26 year-old alumni who was walking by on the sidewalk. I paused in front of her house to tie my shoe, as if to double-check - I was supposed to be feeling something. But there was nothing - only the strange realization that a place that once was an integral part of my daily life had been scraped clean of its significance by the sands of time. I walked out of sight of Greenwood's lone streetlight, into the darkness at the end of the street.
It was only while driving home, the cornfields of those few farms in between Ann Arbor and Canton still untouched by modernity's hand passing by, that I realized maybe I wasn't drawn to Ann Arbor to bury her one last time. This time, I had went to finally bury my old self.