My hatred for Baltimore, Maryland, is a classic case of displacement in the worst kind of way- and as I've written before, my Catholic ancestors arrived from Scotland and fanned out from Maryland toward Kentucky. Lord Baltimore's ambition to provide a safe haven in the New World for British Catholics brought them there, and for that I am grateful. It's just what happened during my senior year of high school that I'm not prepared to forgive...and for the record, I'm not entirely clear on the more sordid details. Some things, I think, are better left in the past.
Most of us have a locale of some kind embedded in memory that evokes something profoundly unpleasant, almost wrenchingly so. For me, it's Baltimore. Although I've flown over it many, many times aboard a plane, I will never willingly visit there if it can possibly be avoided- I've actually paid more for airline tickets to be routed elsewhere, rather than literally set foot in Baltimore. Perhaps I could tolerate the city, but believe me when I say that on pain of death I will not visit the campus of Johns Hopkins. Ever.
I really detest Johns Hopkins because of the negative association, although late last fall semester I swallowed that gall and prepared to correspond with their archivist for in order to obtain the physics course descriptions from their 1986 catalog. For one reason, and one alone, would I do it...because I'm on a mission to right the wrong, to repair the damage that was done by one arrogant boy delivering his farewell speech to a very foolish girl on a foggy, muggy morning in early June, 1986.
In short, I'd do it to mend my own heart.
Someone I know dropped a casual remark this week about not going to a certain city to dig up bones while he was in another state on business. I know the rest of the story...and I understood more of the backstory than was really good for my relationship with him back when we were an item. My reply this time was simple: "I feel the same way about Baltimore."
A couple of days later, he posted a nostalgic photo of himself with the lady in question. That's a rabbit hole from which it's impossible to emerge unscathed. Inasmuch as it would be clear to a blind person that he'll always be in love with her, it's also clear to me that he'll always torture himself with the 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' of it.
We had a lot in common, but the lingering personal relationship ghosts on both sides proved a bit of a wedge. There were other things, too, but I don't feel like beating him or me up about it. I just wish we'd both had enough sense to learn one of the first basic commands that I taught my female Airedale, Sister: leave it.
Sometimes you have to drop it on the ground and just leave it. Your sanity will thank you later.