The last time I was here, the cardboard cut-outs of Hillary Clinton were 50% off. Tourists stopped to take photographs with a two dimensional Obama or McCain. Memory re-orders the shops. I deem them misplaced but almost rejoice that they are all still here. I know the best place to buy lunch, which line moves the fastest, how to find tiny altoids (downstairs at the convenience store tucked around the corner from the escalator). The Starbucks line still falls out the door and accidentally mingles with the Hertz rental car line. I remember how empty this space feels at 10pm. It always seemed like we were the only ones in the city who needed a late-night coffee to make it the 3 blocks home. We probably were.
I had forgotten the friendly nature of people here. How much more they smile. How much more I smile. I recognize faces, although mine goes unnoticed. My heart breaks a little when that face is homeless. Still sitting and staring and chanting. I almost walk two blocks in search of my favorite - he was a kind head nod and small smile every day that summer. I don't want to walk by the old office and old "apartment", so I tell myself he is fine and almost believe it. I still see faces of people who aren't here. Who were never here with me. People I have not thought of in months. I'm surprised that this hasn't faded with time, and I wonder if it ever will. Will this city always remind me of you? I had forgotten how often someone asks me for directions: "I don't know *shrug* I'm sorry!" I apologize that an ipod on doesn't mean resident, and they apologize for breaking my stride. We meet in the middle of the sloppy apologetic puddle and move forward. Kindness.
This time around my thoughts form stories, laying words like bricks, but I'm not sure there is a foundation. This time I decide not to walk through the Senate office buildings and head straight for the Museum of the American Indian. I stop and breath in the Capitol building. Inhale and exhale peacefulness. My eye searches for photographs and captures viewfinder shots differently than two years ago, when I played tourist with my camera and resident with my heart. I sit in the shadow of the museum and watch the waterfalls cascade. I'm gentle on myself for not remembering the symbolism of the architecture and landscaping. Note the importance I assign this knowledge. I pick up a brochure on my way out and promise to take the tour next time. Next time. Feel daunted and assured.
At the end of the day I'm in Union Station, sitting in a gray suit with a pen in one hand and a Starbucks in the other. If I am trying to reconcile parts of me - professional and personal - then maybe this is it?