I walk past a closed candy shop that is trying to cash in on our history of the Gold Rush by selling edible “gold nuggets”. I stop where Mama Di Carlos used to be. The kitschy Italian restaurant is now an urban pub called Bricks. Lisa and her cousin, Anna, who is visiting from Sweden, are sitting at the bar picking at fried ravioli.
“Leeeeesa!” I squeal and then rush her with a hug. All through high school her bright red hair had been long, curly, and wild, matching her bohemian child ways. Now it is short, cute and rough on my face as she hugs me tightly back. “Hannah Banana! You’re so tiny!”
“Yeah, well Korea. I only eat rice,” I shrug. Anna is still sitting down and sipping her wine delicately. She is visiting from Stockholm for a couple weeks and she looks out of place in a country town with her bright blonde hair and classic style. “Anna, it’s been a long time, how are you?” I ask. “I’m good, yeah. It’s so nice to be here,” she says smiling softly.
I decide it’s time to get it out of the way.“So, uh, Lisa. My mom forgot to give me any money and my Korean cards don’t work here, can you pay for me? I’ll pay you back as soon as you drop me back home!” She gives me a look and says with a smirk, “Oh Hannah, some things never change. “ She then forces me to look at the menu, from which I order a Caesar salad. When it comes, it is the size of Texas.
After dinner, I carry the remains of my salad as we walk down the rest of Main Street so I can take some photos to show my friends back in Korea.
“Haha, oh my god, the Western wear shop. They’ll never believe that. Ah, Crystal’s is going out of business. Just like half the stores here.” I talk a mile a minute, tearing apart my hometown. “Jesus Christ, it’s a sculpture of a cowboy riding a rattlesnake. This is insane.” Growing up here, it was second nature to trash talk my town, but this time I feel guilty, as I am the only one taking part.
There is no one on the street, besides us. I look at the empty building that used to be Gelatos, the cafe where I would do homework, gossip with friends, drink a frosted frog, their sweet, cold, mint chip coffee shake, and once in awhile, my heart would pound when I ran into the boy I was in love with. Now it’s just a nameless face closed off by a metal fence. “It’s so sad”, says Lisa, as we stand together and stare.