I Can’t Come Home

The skies are uncharacteristically grey for Colorado outside. The soft and unintelligible conversations of the kitchen are floating outward. Somehow they sound stressed. Normal for a kitchen.

I’m sitting in a cafe in downtown Louisville, the city of my childhood that has changed so much since I was a a child. Funnily enough, when I put the period on that particular sentence a song from early high school came on with unbelievable timing. Nickelback. Someday. Bizarre in the way that I perfectly remember the music video from the first few times I was actually allowed to watch MTV. When MTV actually played music videos. In the afternoon.

The tables in the cafe are artfully distressed, and there are large burlap coffee bags lining the bench on the other side of the room. There is local art on the walls. Two slightly out of place, matching chandeliers on the ceiling. I have no real recollection of what this building was when I was growing up. Practically everything has changed except the barbershop across the street. Louisville is a trendy, cool place to be.

What the hell?

Now the song is Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day, another early high school anthem. Somehow the music streaming service must have sensed that I was going to be writing about how it once was here. This song was released more than ten years ago. At least it’s now 2004 in here, and not 2003 like when Nickelback was playing.

Home is not home anymore, and it probably hasn’t been for a long time.

I knew that travelling would change me. I knew that opening up to more than one home carried the inherent risk that the first one would be diluted. My homes, as my Gravatar profile says, are all over the world. Puerto Natales. Ferrara. Suwon. London. Very very soon, Shanghai. It may have been a decision as crazy as the Gnarls Barkley song that is the next throwback to come over the speakers. Now it’s 2006, the year I moved out of Louisville for the first time.

The couple next to me seem to have confused this cafe with a sit down restaurant. Poor them. I don’t blame, because the whole of Main Street is now full of shops and restaurants and pubs and breweries. Growing up, there were about two. The Blue Parrot, the ever-present and fairly downtrodden Italian and Pasquini’s, it’s slightly cooler and more concrete sister. There are plenty of people who live in Louisville who have no memory of that place. No recollection of its name. All these are good changes. Louisville was a social desert growing up. You had a choice to basically stay home in someone’s basement or hang out at the 7 11 on McCaslin (which is now a credit union).

The next song in the nostalgia rotation is Everlast’s What It’s Like. I suddenly realise that I might well have gone to school with the woman across from my seat. But then, I see people that I know everywhere in the world. In London especially, I would see people everywhere that my brain told me I knew. I know her! That’s your old friend from middle school! That’s your old professor! That’s your sister and her boyfriend, come to surprise you at the bar you work at in Camden. They’re just being quiet and hiding so it’s a better surprise!

My brain was trying desperately to reconcile the fact that I cannot run into anyone I know when I’m living my life abroad. It was trying to bring this first home to me in my fourth. But now, I’ve been in Louisville for two months and I’ve not run into a huge amount of people I knew growing up.

A lot of demographic change has occurred. A lot of people my age can’t possibly afford to live here anymore, since property is up 10% last year and almost every year since I graduated in 2006. Even the 2008 recession couldn’t wipe out the housing growth here. Those are London housing growth percentages. I wouldn’t be surprised if Russian oligarchs start parking their investment money here, too.

The place has changed. I have changed. It’s a very, very nice and comfortable place to visit.

But I can’t come home.

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