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Traveling Through Time to Leave Hauntings in Broad Daylight


It was something about the curve of her cheek to her chin in the side-view mirrors. I mentally spoke to her: she could make the left turn through the light; she could trust herself. But I knew that hesitancy. It was hesitance that came from inexperience, but also knowing that the car she commanded wasn't very commanding. I've been her.

Living in the same college town in your late 30s where you spent your 20s can make you start to feel haunted by versions of yourself. One I saw coming around the drive-thru for Dunkin', a young woman — baggy jeans, an earth-colored tank top and unruly, short hair — leaned into the window, but no car. As I slowly pulled up, she looked out at me, turned and grinned into the window, and then jumped out of the lane, opening the door of her PT Cruiser that had dice in the mirror.

"An old and deeply uncool car," I told my mom in the passenger seat. "I remember that. And my dice. Just missing the wallet chain. I miss that wallet chain sometimes."

There was a bit of scoffing and a repeat of "uncool car?" reminding me the car was one I didn't purchase; I was just lucky that my father had decided to collect late 1980s Volvos, enough of them to rotate through when one in beige temporarily died and got swapped with a dark gray one. You could drive them like you stole them, but you still wouldn't be going very fast.

It's not just college-aged girls or underpowered cars that haunt me; it's sometimes the streets.

My husband and I recently headed up the route I routinely took back home in college. When my parents' house sold, there wasn't a reason to go back. And still, I recalled the speed traps.

One of the small towns along the way is where I realized it had been so long since I had been through it that I was now a time traveler. I saw the town's effort to beautify the last stretch of road before it opened to mountainous tribal land. They had planted now-established trees in the median and expanded sidewalks. It was a change I could only see with my old, fresh eyes.

There'd be an assumption that these are ghosts of regret, but they're not. They are ghosts who are versions of me that led to who I am now. It's not just my college self spooking around the corners; it's the best and strongest parts of myself that remind me of what I can do.

It's driving that route with a car as old as me and no air conditioning during a Southwest summer, dumping bottles of water on my head and keeping the windows down. It's the parking lot where I nervously met my husband in person for the first time. It's the hospital where I summoned every ounce of fortitude to hobble, just stitched and deflating, behind my days-old newborn as we got into an ambulance. It's walking into class raw after losing my father to meet an incredibly kind, yet wary, professor who didn't understand why I was there. Where else would I be?

It's having lived here, having worked there. It's having shared a laugh there with someone no longer here.

I'm still haunting spaces, leaving ghosts for a future version of me. It's the kitchen table spot that's mine. It's becoming a regular. It's going to a new place, learning the year they opened, and thinking, 'that wasn't so long ago,' but back then, you didn't need their services. And here you are, sitting on bleachers watching a kid born that same year start their lessons.

The streets you travel now won't look the same in 20 years, in 50 years or in 100 years. But the spirit of who we were may still linger if we make peace with our brief dash through time, especially if we do our best in the time and places shared by those who may travel the same paths as us in the future.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.