Past Returns, with Questions

October 2, 2008

In late August I was three thousand miles from my Portland home, back in the Orlando area where I grew up, left, and returned to work for seventeen years.

My wife and I were enjoying a notable meal at a new restaurant in Winter Park, The Ravenous Pig. I heard a familiar voice at a nearby table but didn’t turn around. Suzame confirmed it was a personable guy I fired years ago from the newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel.

I spent the next hour hoping he wouldn’t see me, though I had nothing to feel guilty about — he self-destructed in a job many people coveted and can legitimately blame only himself. But I wondered whether he had bounced back. Was he happier? Did he still resent me? How would he react if I walked over to his table and said hello?

He was hardly the only person I fired in my years as a hard-ass editor, though unlike a few others he’s never intruded in my dreams. They have starred in disturbing dramas all titled “Guilt.”

I stayed put at our table, hoping he’d leave before we finished, which he eventually did. And I was left to contemplate a universal truth: the past is never the past. It looms front and center in the present, a mirror reflecting what we’d sometimes rather escape but never will.