Places Lost

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Someone made me think of London recently, which brought vividly to mind the way the city looked, the streets I walked, the house I fixed up, my neighborhood grocery, the public transit routes I frequented, the lessons learned, the people I knew, and the times we shared.

I talked about life there as though I’d just moved away, though I left in the late fall of 2001 and haven’t visited since I flew out of Gatwick to Houston for the last time.

What would it feel like, to see it again?

It won’t look the same. I don’t even wonder what London looks like now or what about it has changed—these factors matter less than the basic fact that it has, indeed, changed.

Revisiting a place only to discover that it no longer exists jars me. Sure, Baltimore exists. But my Baltimore—the city I lived in for undergraduate school and even the campus on which I spent so much time—has gradually disappeared, eroded by new businesses, buildings, streets, signs, events, culture, ethos.

Such should happen. Living cities change, they renew. Yet this evolution means that the Baltimore that existed when I lived there doesn't pulse today.

I don’t know Baltimore.

Every time I revisit the formerly frequented places that live so vibrantly in my mind, my craving for what I’ll never again experience socks me in the chest like a breath-clearing jab to the diaphragm. The nostalgia, always there at a low level for anything gone, surges like the swelling ache of glimpsing the love who got away or finding a ticket stub from an event attended with a lost friend in a jacket pocket.

Would revisiting every place in which I’ve spent enough time initiate the same grief? Certainly, the magical places I've listed would. As would the places that catch my heart. Yet London didn’t make either list—and it would definitely stun me to return.

What places, when revisited, crush you with nostalgia?