Being of a certain age and living in a Rust Belt city means there are big chunks of your history that are simply gone because so many people either moved away or died. It was really bad back in the mid 1990s, when it seemed every other weekend was a going away party for someone who was moving to North Carolina or New York City or anywhere but Buffalo or Syracuse. Times were tough around here back then, and the various associations I made between people and places stayed strong because nothing ever changes in a depressed Rust Belt city except maybe another layer of grime and decay. I used to call them my ghosts, because seeing this corner or that apartment building or the other storefront would take me back, instantly and without warning. Sometimes it was nice, but mostly it was just jarring. Buffalo has been on the mend now for a few years, and many of those old haunted places have changed, breaking the chain that links me to my past. I didn't realize how many of those links had been broken until today in Dollar General when I saw a living ghost; a woman I had known many years ago and who I thought was dead. It took me a few minutes to place the voice, the way she stood, the way she talked to the clerk, but then it all clicked into place and I felt that jolt again that I'd managed to avoid for a very long time. I knew she'd never recognize me - I was much thinner when she knew me - but even so I kept still in order to avoid catching her attention. I much prefer this city of living vibrant people to the land of ghosts I knew 15 years ago.

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