The name of the trail was unfamiliar to me. As we hoisted the bikes down from the rack on the back of the car and set off pedaling, I was unaware that I had ever been here before. Five minutes in, we paused at a crosswalk. Across the road, a cement wall sloped upward between the path and the near-empty parking lot of a convenience store. Further on a semi-circle of sun shone through a short, dark tunnel.
Suddenly, I realized that I had seen this place before. Ten years earlier, my child self had set off down this very path, my short legs pumping twice for each of my parents’ leisurely pedals. Two young girls had sat at a card table along the wall selling lemonade, which I had stared at longingly as we passed by. I remember yelling “Hellooo!” as we passed through the tunnel to hear the echo, while my dad set off a chorus of hooting owls.
An image of this place had occasionally surfaced in my mind during the intervening years, but I had never been able to place it in its proper location. I had biked the streets of my home town half expecting to find this wall, this tunnel, never completely certain that I had ever really seen them at all. Now that I had returned, the memory was pinned upon my mental map of experiences, re-written as if I had traced the fading pencil marks of an old diary entry in pen.
How many more images reside locked up in my mind, how much of my past lies inaccessible to me without a physical artifact to trigger its remembrance?
As I passed through the tunnel, I let out a long, high whoop, just for old times sake.