What is it like to be in love with a city? Thinking about it, dreaming about it, talking about it, missing it. Many of us have experienced it. City-pride. For me, love involved a combination of great friends, delicious restaurants, kitschy thrift stores, bike-ability. But looking deeper, beyond all the “stuff to do,” I was literally in love with the city itself: the centenarian brick buildings, the rolling hills this Florida girl wasn’t used to, the mossy sidewalks, and the seasons, oh the succulent seasons. The river. Canoeing its many sections, lying in its shallows for hours of conversation, skinny dipping after dark in the heart of the city, knowing the shortcut to get down to its shores – under the bridge, down the muddy clay too-steep path, over the tilted wooden bridge, down some more, and through the parking lot.
I remember biking home to my tiny 1911 apartment building one day in April. It was an overcast, wet, but bright day. The trees were all a budding light green, the bulbs were in full bloom: pinks, reds, whites, and deep purples edged every sidewalk and tiny front yard. The color after winter was breathtaking. I thought to myself, “This is spring.”
I admired the purpose embodied in the city. It wasn’t, like many of the surroundings in Florida, sprawling, strip malling, suburbia. Perhaps this is the nature of most downtowns versus suburbs. Each building had its reason for being: selling its wares, serving its food, even if it were just a dilapidated ancient structure fit for punk shows or an abandoned gem with open windows telling the story of its history of peeling paint and tile, proudly standing in the city center as self-assured as the arms-wide oaks.
Well, I can’t go back. It’d have changed too much or be too much the same. A visit might be nice, but life moves on and new loves are budding around me here, now. Sealing my love in words might help me move on, but there will always be a place in my heart for a certain old, dignified city: Richmond.