I don’t know you; don’t know those melancholy eyes I see
Do you even know me? Your scent is familiar…
I have a complicated relationship with returning home.
In the hours before my inevitably high-heeled feet step off the inbound plane, I am wrapped up in the giddiness of it all, the frenetic pace of the to-do list, the anticipation of seeing my friends and family and friends that are like family. But as soon as the “fasten seat belt” sign goes off on the other side of take off, I feel anxiety and a twinge of dread. I find myself strolling without purpose to the baggage claim, all the while checking the signs on the gates I pass to see if maybe I can just jump a plane back to my own life.
I could say it is because Atlanta is a city I barely recognize anymore though I was born of it and likely, just as with any parent, still a baby in its eyes. It is almost lost some of it’s familiarity with each hole-in-the-wall eatery I loved replaced by some gleaming, shiny place with velvet ropes catering to those who consider themselves “elite”. (vomit, gag.) I could venture to guess that maybe it is the frustration that comes from recognizing that they have built another goddamn high rise condo right in the middle of a street that used to be my favorite back road. But really, it is that feeling I get below that frustration; the realization that I no longer know my way around my home, that maybe it is no longer for me.
Really though, it is the detachment I feel from the person I was living the life I was living there. I am no longer 17 and convinced that the boy I have dated since I was 12 is the man I am going to spend the rest of my life with. (vomit, gag.) I am not girl who must doggedly pursue good grades and elite social status and participation in every club outside the Asian Student’s Union and Men of Distinction on the off chance that every membership will get. Me. The. Fuck. Out. Of. Here. I am not the disenchanted kid forcibly sitting in church pews six days a week, internally screaming back at the messages shouted at me from the pulpit, that I know in my tiny heart are not true.
It has become my way, in the years proceding my flight from home, to pretend that person no longer really exists. Sure, I allude to my childhood in vague and sepia tones, keeping the colors to myself. But mostly, with the exceptions of a few artifacts of Then, as far as I am concerned, life started for me at Howard.
Certainly that is to say that life started over. But if I admit that, then that means admitting there was something that came before. And I prefer not to do that.
Your worries, your stress are both the root of your unhappiness; fueled by insecurities…
Sometimes I recognize that home is not the enemy; it has done me no actual harm other than the diminished ability to appropriately pronounce dog (said like “dawg” ‘cause that’s the way everyone is supposed to say it). Rather, it is the things I left there, dropping them curbside on my way out of town, that I have to trip over every time I (rarely) return. The relationships I didn’t mend or close. The issues I left handing in the closets of my old room, scattered across the floor like emotional debris. Those things continue to harm me. But I just can’t seem to convince myself it is worth shouldering, confronting. I hear the things the city whispers in my ear. The truths I just can’t seem to fathom, the lessons I should have learned back when I was young and flexible and easy to rebound.
We can’t be happy until you’re happy with yourself
Come on talk to me baby; I’m not the enemy
You can’t love nobody, unless you love yourself
Don’t take it out on me baby; I’m not the enemy
No, instead I blame the buildings and the transplants that can’t drive. I blame the soul food spots shuttered and replaced with this season’s favorite fusion cuisine. I blame the ridiculously priced airline tickets who want to charge me internal organs and intimate bodily functions for a 2 hour flight. I blame the humidity and/or the cold, the noise and the pollution.
But really, Atlanta is just doing what I have been largely unable to do; tearing down the blighted monuments to misery, constructing something better, bigger, stronger, more beautiful in its place. My beloved city is evolving in ways that I have not been able to, because the way I have rewritten my story does not allow for a foundation from which to build.
So maybe in that way, I am the enemy.