Home

[[This post is part of a collaboration with my best friend Bri, from the blog Tales of A Human Snail. Read her piece here.]]

‘Home’ is in a state of flux.

Home used to be Centennial, Colorado, where I spent my childhood and adolescent years within the same general radius, moving from house to house in a city that remained the same. When I think of Centennial, oddly, I always think of Southlands Mall. Southlands had that frozen yogurt place where I showed my best friend my brand new iPhone 4S in a rush of elation at being on the cutting edge of technology. It had the Victoria’s Secret where I bought my first pieces of lingerie because Jazlynne said that was the adult thing to do. It had the movie theater I visited countless times, the Noodles & Company which I seemed to only rarely be able to afford, the fast food restaurants on the far side where my dad would take me through the drive-through as a step up from our usual dinners.

Centennial is familiar to me, like a winter mitten, something I can remember and trace the shape of with my eyes closed. There was something immensely satisfying about living in a state for so long that you started to understand the geography of it: the disjointed neighborhoods starting to make sense in context to each other. Cherry Creek had the Italian restaurant I went to with Danielle in elementary school, Denver had East High School and that record store and Spirit Ways where I made fairy houses in third grade. Golden is a college town with an amazing pizza place Bri and Jaz and Hannah and I went to; and we were drunk on giddiness and freedom even though our parents wanted us home. Greeley is where Jeremy and Alex live, it’s a spread out rural suburbia where the kids drink late into the night and the houses are towering things. Everywhere had its significance, everywhere was somewhere I’d seen, nothing was scary anymore.

The mountains were another thing. I took them for granted but they never got old. They were a permanent fixture on the skyline of my youth, like the wallpaper your mother put up in your nursery which still appears in your dreams.

When I left Colorado, that home, I felt like I was being ripped away. I left in a flurry of nervous glances and fast-clipped steps immediately after my High School Graduation. I was ushered out of the gym with a security guard herding my clustered family, until they stowed me in a car, and we pulled out of the parking lot with a collective exhale. We had breakfast at The Perfect Landing, another place with memories (parties, anniversaries, when my grandparents waltzed during dinner). And when the plates were scraped clean and the photos were taken, and everyone left, I waited for a taxi to take me to the airport. I caught a plane to the east coast and hid for a while.

Every now and then when I get sad I think about that exit: it felt like the lack of a goodbye. It felt like my ending was stolen from me. I missed every graduation party, every parting get-together that my classmates and friends slowly and tearfully prolonged, unsticking their home from themselves with laborious and nervous fingers, shaking it loose to find a static cling remaining, relishing in it, and then brushing it off for good. My goodbye was a ripped bandaid. It was over so soon that I didn’t even feel the pain.

Maine, by all rights, was supposed to be the new solution. It became Home. I moved into my mother’s small apartment with the things I had managed to smuggle out of my dad’s house and claimed my space in the makeshift bedroom there, separated from the living room by a curtain. When I got my own space in Boston, it was bigger and better and had a locking door and its own kitchen and shower and the windows opened onto the city like the promise of a brave new world, and it was, it was brave and new and beautiful. It feels the most like home to me now. It feels like the first place that was mine.

But Centennial wasn’t magical because it was mine. It was magical because it was where I grew up. It had my family and my friends and the very roads that served as getaways for Bri and I in her car; it was deeply and all-encompassingly familiar.

I feel like a visitor when I’m in Maine. I feel like the Summer Tourist I always was. My mother might move away this year and shutter even the apartment with the curtained-off bedroom. And in Boston, I am the college student, who is exploring a new place with the joy of someone falling in love for the first time. But when the year ends I’ll pack up my things and move them to a different building and a different room, and when three more years end I’ll leave the city altogether. I can’t go back to Colorado. Bri told me returning was like stepping into a time capsule, and even if I had a reason to go back, I know that my capsule has been dug up and shattered, and the memories were irrevocably released, pouring like silent gasses from the canister into the open air. I expect I’ll be afraid to visit Southlands, which is five minutes away from where my dad still lives. I expect I’ll be followed by nervous texts wherever I go from family members who see Colorado only as an open jaw, with jagged, dripping teeth.

So the question presents itself, obviously. Where is my home?

As I write the question fills me with less and less anxiety. As I remind myself of the doors that have closed behind me I can’t help but feel relieved. So what if I’ll never relive my childhood? So what if I’ll never see the Jericho house again, that house in Colorado where for the first and last time I knew what a normal, whole family was like? So what if Maine is not my own place, and just a waystation, and a shrinking waystation at that? So what?

I have where I am now. I have everywhere I go. I have the bus that carried me here and will carry me back, the phone in my hand full of messages from Bri and Parker as I rode. I have those people. I have who I keep with me.

It’s sad to know that I’ll never get the goodbye I always wanted after High School. It’s sad in an inevitable way. But when I think of that blonde haired girl with the small-toothed smile who cried with me over the phone, because I thought I’d be moving away, when I think of Bri, I know that I’m stronger for leaving old places behind me. I know that anywhere a car exists and anywhere there’s a road I will have Centennial again. Centennial was just singing with Bri to loud lyrics from her stereo. Centennial was my best friend and the ways we killed time together, in the way that every teenager finds a way to kill time while waiting to finally grow up.

And god, I think I’m finally growing up. We both are. And things aren’t the same and home is just a memory.

So what?

I’m happy. /

Time of the season

The opening of a new chapter in our history will always be conducive to writing, but it is, I suppose, the just-almost-opening of one which possesses me to write now. I feel a Sisyphean urge to add my voice to the flurry of words and noise which we outpour into the “net” (although, for its name, very little seems to catch) in a plea to be heard or maybe to be felt or perhaps just to be a part of something. This will become a single blog post, which will register a micro-fraction of a decibel loud on some inconsequential scale. But I need to convey to myself the loudness of the moment, of the movement, of the silence when the chants died out and the hollowness was revealed underneath.

I walked against that movement- a stuttered but thick stream of chanting young people- with a myriad of homemade slogans shouted in small moving chunks, like my High School Homecoming parades. I have no way to know if the chants were actually thought up by the marchers of Boston, but they weren’t hashtags I had seen before, they were a part of an oral history: “HEY HEY, HO HO, DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO.” “WE DON’T NEED NO GODDAMN WALL, USA HAS ROOM FOR ALL.” “SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.” “NO TRUMP, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA.”

I imagined myself veering off from my projected course, which was against the flow, walking bleary eyed on the sidewalk occupied by photographers perched like vultures but wearing my clothing and my slow sense of awe, and jumping into the marching crowd as a slogan I liked passed by. Maybe, “THEIR BODY THEIR CHOICE,” and the girls marching behind with, “MY BODY MY CHOICE.” Just like any river, this one possessed its own current; it called to me with a promise of civil disobedience, of looking like those pretty women in Good Girls Revolt (the TV show I was watching earlier in the night) who wore long beads and did LSD in the sixties and fucked the patriarchy hard. I could understand, for the first time, the reason why counterculture existed: because there is nothing more thrilling than being one of a swarm of people, standing firmly on the moral high ground, and ignoring social convention with impunity.

The crowd gathered around The Gazebo, which was already occupied by a dangling row of white 18-21 year olds, one who had a megaphone, someone else with a noisemaker that sounded like police sirens. A girl in black leggings scrambled up the cement siding with the help of some guy in a hoodie, and, when she had accomplished her goal, stood up on her pedestal like a man with a foam finger who had made it onto the Fenway Jumbotron. I watched as the crowd pressed inward with searching eyes, concertgoers jostling for recognition from their favorite celebrity, except on the stage there were just more college students, and no news trucks to make them famous, and they knew it, too. They guzzled up obscenities like gasoline to keep the noise going. When “TRANS LIVES MATTER” started to fizzle out, there again would be “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” or fuck this or whoever or fuck everything, and even now, as “adults,” the joy of saying these words is the same joy as stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

So I left.

I walked back toward my home past the smattered rows of Boston Police in iridescent vests who seemed more like loiterers than anyone, and met eyes with a few of the scattered people walking to and from and around the T stations, carrying out normal lives or leaving the protest like I was. It occurred to me when I met eyes with an Asian woman that everyone on this mostly-empty street with the piles of leaves must also be sure that they are the center of the universe, must also be experiencing my feeling, that the universe is large and incredible, that I am a tiny pinprick of light, and that the vast observable galaxies are mainly there to circulate around me.

I passed a girl from my floor, the girl with the baby face who apparently knows where there are parties. She was smoking a cigarette and leaning against the cold gray side of the T stop looking like she felt lonely and afraid. As I crossed the street, blue light flashed across my face from the police car parked parallel to the crosswalk. There was that girl Amy Houghman by the doors of the lobby, catching my eye for a split second. We’re Facebook friends. She was huddled with a group of five other girls, all dressed in white dresses and heels under pea coats and the flashes of their front-facing cameras. I think I heard something about white being a symbol for the Suffragettes. I’m sure I’ll find out later on Amy’s instagram.

As I climbed the stairs towards my dorm I heard someone ask the time, and then “You’re gonna miss American Horror Story?” and then the first girl, the one holding a protest sign like a textbook under her arm, “I don’t get why they couldn’t come, I’m really annoyed actually.”

I knew as I climbed those stairs that I was being pretentious. Everywhere I looked I saw through a lens of disdain, and, of course, just because I didn’t walk outside with the express intent to march in the protest didn’t mean that I hadn’t been there, or that I wasn’t white and young and privileged, or that I didn’t have an Instagram.

I wonder how exactly it helps to look down upon people just because I think their hearts aren’t behind their actions. I wonder what it would matter even if their motives were completely and objectively “genuine,” if we could even collectively decide on what “genuine” is. I wonder how it was in the sixties, which stands in our public lexicon as the real era of protest: if white college students looked at other white college students playacting at anger and felt a little far away from it all. If only I could tap into the Woodstock generation and feel what they felt. I wonder how I can get a slice of that magic, a hit of that bong, draw a needle of that urge in my stomach to light my bras on fire in the middle of the Common because FUCK SYSTEMIC SEXISM, FUCK FEELING AFRAID FOR MY LIFE, FUCK ‘LOCKER ROOM TALK’ AND FUCK THE MAN WHO STANDS FOR IT AND FUCK ALL THE PEOPLE WHO JUST MADE IT ALL ADMISSIBLE.

But the sixties are over, aren’t they? The protests fizzled out. As anyone who’s had sex, marched in a protest, or eaten a stolen cookie knows, you can only screw or screw the man for so long before you get tired and sick. Counterculture is simply a social Viagra; the best way for people who feel isolated and unheard and like they need to get away with something to actually get it up.

I don’t know. Maybe it was easier five decades ago. People were having orgies and their drugs did their thinking for them. Maybe my young, liberal professor is right, and things were better back then. /