I’m not sure what the word for this is, nostalgia maybe? That feeling when you hear or taste or see or smell something and it takes you back to a different time and place. Not just mentally, like a memory, but you feel it in your body, like an ache in your bones and a knot in your stomach. You feel your soul being ripped from your chest, as it travels back to that one moment that suddenly feels worlds and lifetimes away. Then, just like that, the feeling is gone and you’re left mourning the piece of yourself you didn’t know you had left behind.
Yesterday I was looking up information for my study abroad next year and a picture of a building came up. It was just an ordinary picture, an ordinary street, in a part of the city I’d never been to before but something about it caught my eye. The sidewalks. I’ve never thought twice about sidewalks before. I’m not really sure anyone has. They’re such mundane details, yet throughout our lives, we’ve walked hundreds of thousands of miles on them without giving them a second thought. When I saw that sidewalk I was suddenly there and all the memories of that trip came flooding back to me. Flooding is a tame word, it was more like a hurricane or a tsunami wave. I was struck down with all the feelings, sights, tastes, and smells and then just as quickly as it came, it was gone.
Now I’m stuck here, forced to return back to my reality while I grieve the loss of the person I was at that moment and place. It’s so hard to turn back when you know the place you came from will never feel like home again. Although for some people “I left my heart in San Francisco” will never be more than an old jazz song or a cliche postcard, for me it’s a sobering reminder that I can never be the person I was before because a part of me is still walking those sidewalks on the other side of the world.