I forget, sometimes, thin slices of my life, those parts that didn’t leave the most permanent marks on me. Not passing fads, or habits I grew out of, but actual commitments that simply didn’t make it into the finale resume of my personality. I was a camp counselor for four years. I was in AP Computer Programming but decided it wasn’t worth getting up early for.
In one of those lives, I was a South Street kid, wearing an array faux-leather pants, walking into stores, always looking, never buying, down at Penn’s Landing keeping watch while my friends made out in the bushes. The old graveyard where I watched them open beers on tombstones, the corner of 4th where we loitered while pretending to catch the bus, the defunct fountain that served as our later-evening headquarters – places that I still pass, but am no longer connected to. Not the way i once was.
I unexpectedly found myself on South Thursday night, cool summer air and plenty of teenagers freed from school nights perfectly setting the mood. Out of habit, I met the glances of each person I passed, only to be met with blankness. I always half-expect to see people I know there – Monica, Marissa, Susanne, Guitar Dave, Amanda who wouldn’t date me because her last two boyfriends turned out to be gay and she was afraid to continue the trend, the dumb-but-hot blonde girl that looked uncannily like Taylor Hanson – that whole crew that I could find on seemingly every street corner every Thursday or Friday or Saturday night that I dragged myself out.
There was a society, an etiquette, to our association, loose though it was. There were places that we, smartly hip South Philly denizens, could be found and other places that the more enduring, slightly gutter-punk South Street crowd would inhabit, and some places where the two intersected. I don’t know that we ever did anything, though I remember something about climbing up a statue near the Moshulu, and something else about Monica kicking a Philly Weekly box and an ensuing footchase that may have involved several disgruntled police officers. But, we never did do anything, and I think all I have to show for the sum of the experiences is a tacit allegiance to the coffee-shop across from Starbucks that would let us sit all night after we bought one round of drinks.
Being a South Street kid doesn’t last; it’s a Peter Pan world of evolving maturity and dissolving naiveté. The people I passed last night were back there, in that bliss of not knowing or caring if their nightly adventures would have any net effect on the rest of their lives. I met eyes and was looked at as a stranger rather than a member.
All those people either float away, or change into something else. Walking that street for three years was a beautiful metamorphosis, from my first time as shy in glittered pants trying to learn their names to the ends of it, surely strutting with a crowd of my new college friends, watching the familiar faces slowly float away to better things, or transform into failures, junkies.
I cannot hang out on South Street anymore. I need a mission, a get-in-get-out objective. Otherwise, I think I might just walk, aimless, misty-eyed, always looking, never buying a thing.