There are over 10,000 Main Streets in the United States of America. They’re scattered everywhere. Focal points of Christmas card townships, city corners, college campuses. You can envision a Main Street in your mind without even needing to visit one: strings of kitschy gift shops, a historic post office, probably a dilapidated dry cleaning service or two with boarded up windows. I must confess, I am pathetically in love with the self-righteous importance of Main Streets. They’re not just streets, but capital M Main Streets. Every local knows which street you’re talking about. The only one that matters.
I can’t walk down the Main Street we knew anymore because that’s just something that happens when you love someone and they leave. You start taking the long way home, even when the sun sets and you’d theoretically be much safer as a woman walking under Main Street’s lampposts rather than traversing the unlit, soulless alleyways. You start driving past Main Street without letting your eyes flit left or right, because you know that you’ll see them— them— those young, red-faced couples standing at the corner, waiting for the pedestrian light to turn. If I look a little too long, the girl in the red coat becomes me. She’s wiping the fog from the boy’s clear-rimmed glasses with her scarf like I did for you.
Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to stand at that light alone until it turns. Maybe I’ll walk to the coffee shop where we used to order spicy chai in late October and watch the hungover college kids meander through the farmers market, toting around loaves of sourdough bread and orange wildflowers. I’ll have no one to laugh at them with but the tea would be just as sweet. I’ll make it work.
There are over 10,000 Main Streets in the United States of America but only one that matters to me. It’s the one nestled in the heart of Southwest Virginia, where we’d peer into the high-end clothing stores and pretend we could afford the outfits on the window mannequins. It’s the one where we snuck into that record store and I went home with miscellaneous 60s, Bonnie Tyler, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. That was the day we ran to the bus stop in the rain, your socks drenched and hair glued to your forehead and I knew it. I could never love anyone like this again.
On Main Street I watched your eyes fill with rain as you sang Happy Birthday to me over chocolate cheesecake. On Main Street we shared blood orange sorbet on the bench and watched the usual crowd of night revelers stumble into bars. On Main Street we joked about being married college professors like the ones we’d spot at the underrated sushi place. On Main Street we thought it would all work out.
Maybe one day I’ll stop taking the long way home.