Sunday, December 26, 2010

and you won't look back

A year ago I ran through the front door with my phone in my hand. It was cold out but I didn't put a coat on. Cut glass rattled in wood as the door fell shut behind me. It would be my last ditch effort, and your response would be the last ditch period. You told me she was moving there to be with you, I paced the driveway. I asked you how that felt, you paused and said, pretty good. I went back inside and later I drove my car to a friend's house and made some more phone calls but this time no one picked up.

Just something about this place, if I'm here too long I feel swirls of a person I used to be, and it makes me surly. Sitting at a table of family friends, sweet people with happy unexamined lives, being asked over and over if I have a boyfriend yet. When am I getting married, ideally. I shrug and churn out a number. Really I'm only dreaming up answers, but I can't say that aloud. I'm already too strange, too far away.

She said, times have changed. She said, in my day, if you weren't married by 21, you were considered an old maid. I said yes, times have changed. The thing is, my parents didn't raise me to be an expert at finding boyfriends. They didn't buy me school workbooks at the toy store so that I would be a good wife. Most people can have babies, and most people do. Most people want to get married, and most people do. Most people vote, but it doesn't mean most people should. A woman in a mall looks me up and down and says she likes my outfit, asks me where I'm from. My mom smiles and says, she lives in New York, she's a writer.

I remember in high school, I got into this fight with my parents. I don't remember what we were fighting about, I can just vividly hear myself saying, I'd rather be alone at the top than not be at the top at all. The memory is transcendent, like I'm remembering someone else say it. I see myself standing there with a fire in my eyes. I find it equally comforting and frightening, like the old me knew the new me would eventually show up and was readying the fort. In my darkened bedroom, I taped my poetry to rose-colored walls.

There's this amazing poem that's stuck in my head since I read it. These lines: This is for every little boy and girl who stood between home and a tornado, weighed the options, and took a chance on the twister. The image of the tornado is violent and accurate, but I think the writer neglects the other half of the story, something the Dorothies may find comforting. That once you've chosen the tornado, it becomes your home.

People keep asking me when I'm coming home, coming back to the South. I just smile and say I don't know, we'll see, we'll see. But really the tornado is my home now. I love the turbulence, pressing my face to the wind and stretching my limbs over an unlimited expanse. I can never go back to living on the ground. I need the scorch to live. The only way to go is up. Up and away.


  1. It's hard to come back, and your back is farther, South and in time.

    I always feel the weight of expectation when I return - my brother's presence alone, and the knowledge that my parents are getting older and he will be in my care one day. It is refreshing and beautiful to read your own weight of a different kind of expectation.

    You said it just right, even as I angle to move South for a bit - "the tornado is my home now."

    It explains everything. Why I've never felt at home at home. Why there is nowhere to go back to because the back to is here but I'm not the same, can't regress, am in the air. Most of all I think it hits at the heart of our connection and makes me happy we're friends.

    Drinks when I'm back from Nola. I won't say "back on the ground."

  2. Meghan, this IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE! Just came back from Tennessee, where people said they were glad that I finally remembered where home was. I had brought the manfriend, with whom I "live in Sin." We have a home and a city life all our own and it's not the house where I grew up. I have a job and all they can ask is: "When are you finished with school? What year are you?" As if life was that easy for everyone to follow. A step-by-step path. I wish I could put it into words this easily.

  3. Cristin, thanks for your comment. I'm glad you can relate to what I was trying to describe. So many people never, ever leave home, and to them the idea of leaving home is just completely foreign. They don't understand it. But as long as you believe in your heart that you are doing what's best for you, then you are in the right. And I agree, there is no step-by-step path.

    Also, I have to point out that it wasn't easy for me to convey all these emotions in one piece. Thanks so much for expressing that you think I did an OK job of it. It was actually about tying together several different feelings that came down to one theme: home, and leaving it.

    Thanks for reading.

  4. this reminds me of that seal song where he says: "in a world full of people, only some want to fly, isn't that craaaazeh?"

    i'm still not sure which person i am.

    looks like you're ahead of the game - congrats and all the good things!