By Eduardo Paz-Martinez
McAllen, Texas - There is something to be said about coming back to where you lived your youth. You can almost hear the same sounds on the same streets you used to know well, and you can almost believe that there'll be the old face of someone you once knew as a kid just around that next corner. Coming home throws a distinct feeling on you, throws it over your shoulders like an old, winter coat of the sort your mother bought for you when the weather turned cooler, when the high school football games included gusts of colder-than-usual winds, when winter's cool rains fell across town as you scooted home for supper.
It's true: you can go home again.
But, for me, it's been almost - what? - forty years since I garduated from McHi and left to join the U.S. Navy, and then college. Much has come my way elsewhere in those years, and, yes, little-by-little one forgets things that made the younger years excitable - like skipping school, drinking in Mexico, going to The Green Flame over by the airport here, where we danced to local bands that played Big Time rock 'n' roll, tunes like Gloria and Wild Thing and an album of Beatles tunes. What a time it was.
I've been back since last Christmas, but have largely stuck to my work (finishing my fourth book). Outings have been with family, although there have been a handful of dates with women I doubt will be meaningful to me in the long run. Still, it's been better than I expected. It's the hot & humid climate of the Rio Grande Valley that annoys the Hell out of me. Given a choice, I'd rather be in the mountains of the West, Santa Fe or Western Colorado. But I'm here, and as Phil Collins said in that great song, "...and here I'll stay."
A few weeks back, I went to my old high school friend Charlie Zepeda's 60th birthday party. This may sound like a cheap joke, but as I told my daughter....I hadn't seen that much gray since the smoke of 9/11. I know that sounds cruel, cold at least, but it's true. I half-expected to see bottles of Maalox at every table, but was glad to see beer still flows through the veins of my old friends. In any case, it was fun. I didn't remember any of the old classmates present, but , then, they did not remember me, either. Life is funny that way.
I've heard from a few others since that party, thanks to the reunion committee. One of the members floated an e-mail to the membership about my being at the party and the next thing I know, well, email arrived at my busy box like a neat rain. I even had breakfast recently with one of the women, but more about that later.
For now, just know this: It's okay to go back in time, as heartless and cruel as that exercise might be, gushing hell-os and hugs aside. Who knows, you may even make a friend here and there - as I seem to have done...
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