“You can’t come back here.” She stopped him on the road where he was creeping along in his old blue truck, and told him to roll down his window so he would hear exactly what she was saying. “You’re not welcome here. You need to turn your truck around and head the other way.”
“Why? You said the door was always open. What did that mean? I took it to mean I could come back. So I’m back.” He did the half shrug and the little smile that she remembered from when he sat in front of her in civics class. Then he rolled up the window and inched the truck forward. She knew enough to step back. If she stood in his way, he’d pile right through her. That’s how it worked.
He pulled up next to the old gas tanks, got out, slammed the screeching truck door shut. “I’ll just fill up and then I’ll go. It’ll be fine, honey. I won’t do anything bad. You can trust me.”
“Those tanks haven’t been filled in five years. I don’t mess with that anymore. I just go into town to get gas. Things aren’t the same as they were. That’s what I said. You just can’t come back here thinking they are.”
“Yeah, well, whatever you did to make do can end now. I’m back. I’ll take care of it.” He leaned up against the truck, folded his arms, grinned a little nice grin. “It’s gonna be good having me back, you wait and see. It’ll be fine. Don’t you worry.”
“It’s not like it was when you left. Everything’s different now. It’s like that guy said, “the past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Things are different now. There’s no place for you.” She stood in front of the tanks as if protecting them, her feet planted and her arms crossed, shielding her rusty turf.
“I’m not the same person you left. Somehow, I don’t know how, she left at the same time you did. She was weak and stupid and cried all the time. That’s not me. This is me. This is my road. These are my tanks, whether they’ve got gas in them or not. It’s done. And you’ve got to go. Now.”
“It’s ok. I’ll go.” He pulled open the screeching driver’s side door and slid in behind the wheel. “I know it’s hard getting used to me being back. I’ll give you some time, come back in a few days. You’ll warm up. You always do.”
He drove slow so she could watch every revolution of the wheels. He looked straight in the rear view mirror, pulled his fingers through his hair and waved, that same civics class smile on his face.
She waved back.
Written in response to a prompt from Write on Edge to use the quote “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” L.P. Hartley, The Go-