The Soul of a City

My job is either, a) against my deep and abiding love for the Cowboys, or b) very willing to help me get out of a situation that could possibly be, for lack on a more eloquent term, kinda yucky for me.

When I finally did get off work, my phone rang immediately.

“So have you decided if you’re coming with us to watch the game? We’re going out to Jillian’s to watch it on the big screen and eat,” Mr. Wonderful says on the other end.

And that was the end of that.

I’d already somewhat made up in my mind that I didn’t wanna go, but even if I hadn’t that would have cemented it for me. Jillian’s, like many places in this city I love, holds a lot of memories for me. And whether or not I want to admit it, some of them almost feel like sacred places in my history.

I tried, unsuccessfully of course, to explain to him why I was so uneasy about going. While he was his usual understanding and gracious self, I’m not sure I came off as sane and even keeled as I would generally prefer. And after I foolishly chastised myself for being entirely too emotional and sentimental I started to wonder if maybe there should be some territorial rights after a break up.

I’m one of those people who believes that every city has a soul of sorts; it has an underlying rhythm and flow that is uniquely its own. Miami is upbeat, a beautiful city with beautiful people where sexy seems injected even into the humid air that sticks to your skin. New York is fast paced, rapid, aggressive. When I’m in New York I am hyper everything….hyper-aware, hyper-aggressive, hyper-ambitious. I am me… on full throttle because New York makes no allowances for slackers. Atlanta is the exact opposite… it is laid back, languid, and soothing. Atlanta is the place I go to regroup, to slow down, to see some people who will smile for no reason and get some REALLY good (and fattening) food. Each city has a distinct personality, a distinct rhythm, a spirit all its own.

And then there’s DC. Although I’ve only lived here for four years, the city holds strong ties to me. I have developed a whole life in DC, thousands of memories that I cherish. And some that I haven’t quite gotten enough distance from for them to not pain me, yet.

There are days when I’m walking and I’ll look up and realize I’m somewhere I’ve been before. The details of that other time will rush in and hit me quickly, knocking me off my proverbial feet. And for a split second I am right back there, right back to who I was then, feeling what I felt. And when I come back to myself and realize that it is no more, I am so sad.

I still can’t walk across the yard and look at the bench where Gay Husband and I shared our first kiss without a little twinge of something, way down low in the pit of my stomach. Hell, there are still places, some four years later, that I can’t bring myself to go in Atlanta for fear that my skin will somehow spontaneously burst into flame at the sheer magnitude of the memory of something First Love and I shared. But I mean, I can’t keep moving after every big break up, right?

That is what Mr. Wonderful tells me. You see, somehow IT happened. You know IT; that inevitable conversation you must have with every new person in your life about your past relationships and why they are no more. He told me to talk. So I did. I took him through the three significant relationships in my life, start to finish, no detail spared (that is kind of a lie, but you get the point). Before I knew it I was crying and I still had 3 more years to go.

He listened. And then he told me his past, which, well, it ain’t sweet. And we talked some more. And it felt nice to not be pretending to not be upset for once. And that’s what brought us back to DC.

“I’m really looking forward to moving. I just… can’t be here anymore.”
“You can’t move to a new city every time you go through a break up.”
“I beg to differ. There are a million beautiful cities in the world… and I mean even I can’t go through that many devastating breakups, right? RIGHT?”

So, what are the territorial rights? For cities, for friends, for possessions. I’ve done the whole “give you back your stuff give me back my stuff” thing and it just seems so petty. I have, in essence, abandoned my hometown because there are almost ten years of memories embedded in the very concrete of many of those streets and sometimes I just can’t bear the thought of walking on top of them.

What do you do about missing the sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, friends of your recently departed? I still talk to Almost Fiancé’s best friend. We still hang out from time to time, often going to the diner they all first took me to. And while I love him dearly and completely enjoy his company, sometimes it makes me so sad. And anxious, because I am not sure where I am allowed to tread.

Who gets what? Do you have to forego whole restaurants, areas of town, whole cities just get some closure? Must you do the whole returning of things, taking down the pictures, throwing away letters and cards things? Is there a better way other than erasing all traces of this person from your life and going on as if they only exist in purple edged memories you recall from time to time? This is the question I posed to Mr. Wonderful.
“I dunno,” he replies. “How the hell do you think I ended up in DC?”

Ahh, yes. Blind leading the blind, no?
So what of it dear internets?

In the end, I got off the phone, perplexed and a little perturbed with myself for having not grown enough in all this time to learn how to better deal with issues rather than abandoning these cities I love. I mean, in essence, aren’t I doing the same thing I so despised in the people who left me? Leaving quickly and without notice, only a few pieces of trace evidence left behind to prove I was ever there. Isn’t that, aren’t I, then, just as bad as they? And it brings the question, if there are territorial rules, then where are my roots? Am I grounded anywhere or am I still looking for fertile soil to plant firm roots in? And once I find it, will I always be the kinda woman who has to leave a city to leave the pain?

I ordered a pizza and watched my Cowboys (lose) alone. After the game was over, Mr. Wonderful called me, presumably to have someone to commiserate with about our team’s pitiful defeat as he was surrounded by (sorry) Washington fans. I didn’t pick up the phone. Somehow, I felt as though there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t already been said. I checked the message he left. Cheery, funny… wonderful. I wanted to call him back… I really did. But… I just couldn’t get it up.

Somewhere out there, my heart was still wandering the streets of DC… just not with him.

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