It's a funny thing, having lived so much life in Minneapolis. I've built myself a city that's haunted by my past self. Selves, even. I drive around or walk here and there, and most of the time, I stay in the present...focused on getting to the store, making it to happy hour, or not being late to the gathering. Sometimes, though, I get taken off-guard, and that's when the ghosts creep in.
It happens to me at work, sometimes. I spent a weekend in St. Paul with the Band of the Fighting Irish for the Frozen Four once. I now park at the hotel the band stayed at, and we have work happy hours at the bar where the official pep rally was held. Sometimes, I sip my beer and look up and can see myself, 30 pounds thinner from mono and a flirtation with an eating disorder, clutching a piccolo and wearing a hockey jersey so big it could drown me. I had my first pair of skinny jeans on, and I never considered that the glittering, glassy building just across the street would one day be the source of my professional fulfillment.
Restaurants haunt me. The tiny taco bar where my parents took me for my 25th birthday while he was at a class he hated, where he took me mere days before we broke up and sat at the table on the front porch. I've come dangerously close to car accidents when the ghost of that embattled couple catches me off-guard there. The window tables at Chino Latino will never cease to draw my eye, an old Lizzie trying to cheer up her depressed boyfriend with s'mores and the cheesiest jokes. And Culver's...Culver's will forever be the road trip food that conjures the old two of us, leaving our ButterBurgers and chicken tender memories along I-94 en route to weddings, football games, training.
Crave still echoes for me with the devil-may-care laughter of my mother, godmother, sister and cousins on a girls' day that included one too many lemon drop shots. Pizzeria Lola will always trigger memories of cat plates and photo booths and my dad's "lack of a sweet tooth."
The corner booth in the bar at the Smack Shack is redolent with memories of Kaitlin, a bartender with a sense of humor, and a coloring-book kids' menu placemat.
It's the apartments, though, that are the true graveyards for me. Every time I drive past Laurel Village, I count down the corner windows from the roof, 25 down to 19, and look to see if the lights are on. Sometimes I swear I can see my past self out of the corner of my eye. Biting back tears of frustration with EY and letting that view...god, that view...be the balm that soothed the angst of a brand-new stab at adulthood. Lit up for a party that brought the weirdest, most electric mixes of people together.
Or that shithole on the corner of Nicollet and First...the white-washed brick, the vagrants drifting across the street. The rows of tall, narrow windows, behind which I know the radiator squeaks and the floorboards squeak and the faucets all squeak. The streaky windows I peered through, trying to spot my apartment in their vista because I was so besotted with the boy who came up behind me and hugged me close and made me think this was forever.
222 is still the only place I know I'll always see myself. Leaning up against the corner of the railing on that rooftop deck. Hot pink gym shorts on, taking a day of actual PTO to "finish up the move." Waiting anxiously for him to get home so we could swim and decide where to order takeout from--we hadn't unpacked all the way, the place was too new to cook there. I remember the feeling of the concrete burning my bare feet, and watching the passers-by look up at me. In my mind, I was having a Princess Jasmine moment...being on the inside, with them looking up and wanting in too. Now I'm back on the outside and I know how much misery was on its way for that girl on the deck, and I'd never want to be anywhere but on the outside looking in.
Sometimes I think about the ghosts I'm creating right now. I dream ahead to a day five, ten, fifty years down the road when I drive up to my building from work. I look at it through those far-away eyes and wonder who I'll see when I look at those windows on the top floor someday.
I like to think that I'll remember this place as the one where I put down my roots and took some time to grow back my wings.