Exit 54. The past has a funny way of catching up.

For the last year, off and on, I’ve been re-reading Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series.  These are the books with the letters of the alphabet in the titles: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse, etc.  The books chronicle the adventures of Kinsey Millhone, a snarky bad-ass no-nonsense private investigator.  The books are set in the 1980s in a fictitious beach town called Santa Teresa, which is obviously Santa Barbara with all the names changed.  My mother (Happy Mother’s Day!) discovered this series in the early 1990s, through a newspaper article about mystery novel series with female protagonists set in California, and over the years, as Mom would read them, I often read them too.  Two Christmases ago, I got my mom W is for Wasted, the most recent book so far.  I borrowed it and read it over spring break, and decided that it would be a good idea to re-read the entire series.  Many of the early books I didn’t remember well, some I don’t know if I’d ever read, and there are occasional connections and allusions between the stories that I would appreciate more by reading them again without years in between.

I’m almost done reading the books the second time through.  I finished T is for Trespass last night, and so far this has been the one that I remembered the most from my first time reading it.  This is partially because it was not that long ago that I read it the first time (2007), but also because this is probably the most disturbing book of the series so far, pitting Kinsey against whom I would call the darkest and most evil villain to appear in the series.  This character, Solana, is a scam artist who poses as a live-in geriatric nurse, keeping her patients drugged and confused so she can steal their savings and valuables, and then disappear, leaving the patient to die or hastening their death herself and making it look like an accident.  Kinsey lives in a neighborhood of mostly older retirees, and Solana’s next victim is her next-door neighbor.  I can’t say too much without spoiling the story, but a key turning point in the story happens when Solana is recognized by someone from her past.

This has been on my mind lately, even before I got to that point in the story.  With all the moving I did in my 20s, and all the difficulties I’ve had with jobs I’ve left, churches I’ve left, and women I went out with who treated me like crap, I have a lot that I’d like to leave in the past.  And one thing I’ve discovered through all that moving is that the past has a funny way of catching up with me.  Consider these examples:

  • I went to high school in a different school district from where I went to elementary school, and as I’ve mentioned before, the reason for this was something I was ashamed of at the time.  When I was in 5th grade, there was a girl in 4th grade who always smiled and said hi to me, and that was around the time when I stopped always having the girls-have-cooties reaction.  Then I disappeared to a different school district, but that girl and I ended up at the same high school, and we even had a class together when I was in 11th grade and she was in 10th.  I never asked if she remembered me from elementary school, because that would require explaining why I didn’t still go to school in my old neighborhood.  We lost touch after high school, but around 2000, a friend from the church I went to at the time had been on a retreat recently.  He had a CD of worship music recorded by the house band at this retreat center… and this same girl I knew in 5th and 11th grade was in that band.  Seriously.
  • In 2006, I had just moved here, in the middle of a school year, and I was substituting in the school district in my neighborhood.  I went to the office to ask something about the schedule, and recognized immediately the voice of a girl I had been interested in, and was kind of seeing for a while, in 2000 before a miscommunication left me angry and a bit shell-shocked.
  • In 2007, one of the first times I got back into swing dancing, the same girl from the above story was there.  I’ve never seen her there again.  (Both times she talked to me, and everything was fine, although I haven’t seen her since.  With my luck, I’ll probably run into her today.)
  • A few years ago, I noticed on Facebook that one of my friends from church somehow knows a girl who came on to me in 2004 and then completely blew me off after our first and only date.  I haven’t had any contact with her, though, and I never told my friend about this.
  • A few months ago, I Facebook-friended someone I knew from a Facebook group that we’re both part of but had never met in person.  She lives in Colorado… and I noticed, by reading comments on her page, that she knows the girl from the hipster church in Colorado that I mentioned a while back.  I haven’t had any more contact with the girl from the hipster church, and our mutual friend doesn’t know that we once knew each other.  (Interestingly enough, one of the things that made me realize I wasn’t going to get along with the girl from the hipster church was when we were in a bookstore, and I saw a Kinsey Millhone book on the shelf, and she made a snide remark about the series.)
  • And the reason this has been on my mind the last couple weeks… recently I was talking to a coworker about Star Wars.  She showed me pictures on her phone from some cosplay convention that she and her husband had attended in Anaheim.  I’m trying to look enthusiastic, but the whole time I’m also a little creeped out, wondering if my coworker knows Acrux, my geekbully ex-girlfriend from southern California, because she was part of a different chapter of this same cosplaying organization.

So I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is no use trying to run from the past.  I’ve had a lot of crappy things that have happened to me that I wish I could forget.  Some of them were the result of my own suboptimal decisions, some of them were the result of being mistreated by others, and some were just products of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So what?  Everyone has things they want to forget.  They happened.  I can’t change that.  I can’t run away from that.  No one can.  But my past isn’t who I am anymore.  I don’t have to let people who have hurt me continue to have control over my life and emotions today.  And someday, when I do run into someone who has hurt me in the past, I pray that I will have the grace to handle the situation appropriately and not be mean for the sake of being mean.

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