Old streets


The town felt old.

Walking up the street toward the high school, every doorway, every window looked like older people lived inside.

Two rocking chairs sat on one front porch, empty in the chilly air. An old woman stitched something just inside one of those windows, but I didn’t look closely enough to see what.

We’d driven south, then cut east past Harrisburg, through two tunnels, to this small, old town built around a river. He had a conference. I brought a book.

It was after dark when we arrived at a large bed-and-breakfast with an older woman and her older dog for keepers. Everything felt old in china-dishes sort of way – lovely but fragile and entirely of a different age than the one we live in. She served breakfast on thin china – a few pieces of cantaloupe, two thick slices of french toast, bacon  cooked in the microwave.

It gave me flashbacks to the nights I spent with a neighbor as a child: that first taste of (instant) coffee with powdered cream and Splenda. (It’s amazing I drink coffee now after that.) She always cooked bacon in microwave on the same sort of microwavable bacon platter.

Maybe that’s what made the town feel old, after he’d left for the conference and I started wandering the streets. There were, of course, lots of younger people there. I saw them in the Italian Restaurant with the worst wedding soup I’ve ever had, teen girls sharing a pizza and struggling to split the bill; I passed a younger couple crossing the street with a toddler and two bags of groceries and several balloons catching in the wind; I heard loud music from an old car with two boys in felt cowboy hats.

But it didn’t make it feel any younger.

Later I walked by the river on a dirt path made by so many feed. Trash caught in the reeds at the edge of the water and someone had scrawled words under the bridge. To the one side the water ran noisily over rocks and a duck couple paddled quickly down the center, but to the other side were athletic fields, all empty on a Saturday morning.

And that made it all seem even older.

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