Have I mentioned that Winnipeg is a gorgeous city in the summer? I really have forgotten just how green and lush Winnipeg becomes once the barren, snow-filled desert of winter finally shuffles off of the seasonal stage. And the clouds…

Actress Shelley Duvall was once here in the summer, acting in local film maverick Guy Maddin’s Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. She continually remarked how bowled over she was by the gigantic, billowing Prairie clouds, going as far as getting someone to drive her around Manitoba, taking photos. But, I digress.

As blissful as Winnipeg can be, there’s always history. History is the reason I left Winnipeg in the first place…

Being the city I was born and raised in, it’s only natural that I would accumulate a history here. I made and lost friends, loved and was heartbroken, had roommates and wild parties and sullen Saturday nights spent alone in the blue light of some pretentious Antonioni film.

In a city of Winnipeg’s size (appr. 650,000 - not too big, but not tiny, either), it’s easy to get to the point where you can’t meet someone in your peer group without knowing something about them, and them knowing something about you.

That leads to the state where you often run into people you know well enough that you need to say hello (or seem snobbish, or a jerk), but don’t know well enough to actually have a good coversation with. Spontaneous small talk.

When I moved away, I sold everything. I purged my material history, and as I stepped on the train to Toronto, left the small talk and friends and life I knew all too well behind me.

Now that I’m back, things have changed. I don’t recognize anyone, and I don’t just mean physically. I know there’s still people here that I used to know, but in the time away both sides have changed. When I lived here, people who went away for a spell used to come back and marvel, “it’s as if I never left.”

I went to see a band last week at what used to be the biggest hangout for most of my old Winnipeg friends and didn’t recognize a single face. It is as if I’m on a Hollywood backlot; the scenery is the same, but the movie and the characters have changed.

This isn’t bad, and it isn’t good, either. It just is. I always say to Renée that all of familiar people here must have moved in the time we were away, or retreated to the suburbs to have children and families and a new life. This is what happens when you cut ties, whether on purpose or just because the distance makes the things you had in common fade away.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve met some people here that I feel fortunate to call friends, and I’m not lonely. But I always expected the same to hold true for me as for the others who have gone and returned. I expected everything to be the same. I suppose that’s a kind of naiveté, isn’t it?

I used to crave anonymity when I lived here, which I found by the bushel in Toronto. It was refreshing to meet someone and not know a single thing about them, or know someone that they had dated. Every meeting was a clean slate. Now, back in Winnipeg, I’ve gotten my wish. I’m now anonymous in my own home city.

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