Written by Esme Shane
Colleen cursed when she saw traffic stopped on the freeway. Her traffic app indicated the road was closed several miles ahead so there was no reason to even attempt to go home via the freeway. Inching forward, she was able to turn down a side street and get away from the bumper-to-bumper cars all heading in the same direction as Colleen.
As drove down the street, Colleen was trying to figure out the best route home that did not involve obviously the freeway or any other major road which likely would be packed with other commuters forced off the freeway. It didn’t matter if it took Colleen twice as long to get home just as long as she was moving. Colleen hated to just sit in traffic.
Rerouting herself so she was headed East, Colleen maneuvered through an industrial park. Small and large businesses were spread out among the streets. Although there was traffic, it was moving despite the large number of trucks that were included in the caravan of vehicles.
Colleen was surprised when she reached an intersection that gave her a choice of heading towards the freeway or driving through a residential area filled with large, stately homes. Curious, Colleen turned left and entered an older neighborhood of winding driveways, magnificent trees, and classic architecture. Each house was unique and the faded elegance of each one was evident behind the black wrought iron fences surrounding the lawns.
After winding her way through the neighborhood, Colleen found herself at a traffic light and a busy street. Unsure of where she was, Colleen again turned East and merged into traffic. As she drove, a feeling of faint familiarity came over Colleen. For some reason Colleen felt she knew this street.
Sitting at a traffic light, she glanced over at a long, low building that had a walkway that zigzagged across the front. She kept staring at the building until the sound of a car horn roused her from her fog. Accelerating, Colleen could not get the building out of her head. Why did it seem so familiar to her? At the next light, she pulled off the street and turned around. Something was beckoning her back to that building.
Pulling into the almost empty parking lot, Colleen found a spot close to the front. She got out of her car and walked to the front of the building. A sign next to the door indicated it was an engineering company. Certain she had never done business with the company; Colleen was walking away when someone came out of the building. She stopped and asked the young woman who was walking towards her if Colleen could ask her some questions. The woman agreed and Colleen asked if the woman knew the history of the building. Colleen explained that she felt she had been inside the building before, but she couldn’t recall when or why.
The young woman smiled and said that for many years the building had been home to a very popular restaurant. It was designed to look like a railroad car at a train station. People would que up along the walkway waiting to be seated.
Of course, thought Colleen, that was exactly the reason why the place was so familiar. Many years ago, Colleen and her late husband had come to this very spot to enjoy dinner at the now closed Victoria Station. It was an expensive restaurant that featured prime rib. They had come here on special occasions, usually with another couple or two. The food was good, and Colleen didn’t think on any of their visits had they ordered anything other than the prime rib dinner.
The flood of memories washed over her as Colleen sat in her car. She wondered about the two couples with whom she and her husband had been so close. Her husband’s best friend Robert had shared this place with a series of different girlfriends. The visits to the restaurant slowed considerably once children became part of everyone’s lives.
Across the street had been a comedy club based in a building that looked like a saloon in an old West town. The name had something to do with a dog but Colleen couldn’t recall it.This had been another place they had frequented with friends. Further down the street was the high-end hotel with the fancy restaurant. The restaurant was gone, and the hotel had been rebranded to be a budget hotel. Colleen smiled when she remembered the confidence they had had when they visited the restaurant for dinner with Robert and his girlfriend du jour. Robert was convinced that if he mentioned we were celebrating a wedding anniversary, our meal would be comped. Well, it wasn’t. There was a free dessert and then the check. Thankfully they managed to scrape together enough money to pay the bill, but Robert never lived down his blunder.
Driving down the street, Colleen passed the empty lot which once housed a favorite Italian restaurant with the best chicken parmesan and garlic bread. Several doors down, was a Japanese restaurant that once was a Tex-Mex place that served a fabulous Texas sheet cake dessert. It had also been one of Colleen’s favorite happy hour places when she worked in the area.
She had enjoyed so many happy times on this street. But that had been thirty-five years ago and like so many other things in Colleen’s life, they were long gone. Her husband had succumbed to a yearlong battle with cancer, their children were on their own and their friends from their early marriage years had moved away and out of their lives. Growing families had become the priority, a new house in a new neighborhood and nights out with couples had dwindled down to nothing. Colleen had completely forgotten about this street and what it had once meant to her.
Approaching a major intersection, Colleen spotted a sign indicating the junction of street that would lead Colleen back to her section of the city in which she now lived. Her mind drifted to memories of her husband. He had been dead for twelve years and Colleen still missed him. They had a good marriage even during the lean years and the years of his dwindling health. Their life resembled in some ways the street that Colleen had just visited. Everything was shiny and new, exciting, and fun-filled. Then time began to pass, and things began to change with different priorities and expectations. Certainly, the economy was a factor. People came and went in their lives, and they relocated away from the familiar. Soon past habits fell to the wayside and were replaced with new ones. The old ways faded from memory until a chance encounter triggered their recollection.
When that happens, you sit back and revisit those happy times and appreciate fate taking you onto an unexpected but familiar road filled with memories of a forgotten life. Colleen’s phone rang and she pushed to button the steering wheel to answer. Her granddaughter was calling to tell Colleen she was stuck in traffic and would be late. Colleen laughed and told her granddaughter that she had been lucky to avoid the backup and ended up taking an alternative route home.
When asked which way she had traveled, Colleen sighed and said she had traveled down an old road called memory lane and it had been one of the best detours she had ever taken in her entire life.