I. Everything moves a couple paces slower here; the sun knows this & lingers on the horizon, hides away in our vowels for safekeeping through the night. The currency of home is shockingly high for a place so cheap–I don’t have the words yet to describe what it feels like to be a guest in your childhood bedroom. I don’t know if I could have afforded to feel that way any longer than a week. This isn’t to say I wanted to get away so quickly, or that I don’t crave more time with my family, or that I didn’t feel like I was leaving a part of myself. I don’t think the sun sets the same way in this time zone. In the Hartford airport returning, I have the nagging feeling that I left a piece of luggage or a notebook or a limb back there. But it always fades.
II. I’ve outgrown writing about boys who only find me interesting in the backseat of their cars.That version of me still lives on my bookshelf in old journals, and sometimes she wakes me up at 3am to read lovesick poetry. Sometimes I find her at the bottom of a bottle of red wine or in a song about old hearts leaving. But any time I’m worried that my past lives may be swallowing me whole, I remember to allow myself the small regressions (but only for a moment, and only the tiny ones I can live with wedged in my backbone). I’m starting to realize that I am not too grown for passive aggression — just too old to be angry at the rain, too far away from the girl in his passenger seat in Memphis. I always pick the music now; he just listens and waits.
III. I tell myself that the only thing that gets me out of bed is myself. Sometimes that’s a lie & sometimes I can’t. I mean this in the sense that I’m at times too anxious to imagine interacting with another body but also that sometimes all I really need to kick me out of a slump is for someone to take away my blankets or force me into public. I’ve gotten to know myself well enough to tell the difference. I still need to go to therapy. There is still a scale slipped under my bed. My cuticles and journal are just as much a mess as they were last year, but I don’t feel like a wound constantly re-opening. It’s peaceful most nights. My bed is no longer a hole.
IV. This is a simple beginning; nothing to clean up, plenty of rawness to cling to. There are many ways this could go wrong, and I am already trying to write out all of the possible outcomes in my head (as writers are prone to do). I am trying to remember what it felt like to be new to this: the east coast, the feeling of being uprooted and hung out to dry, the dynamic between women, finding myself in the corners of my body rather than in the physical space around it. I am still working to be good at it. There’s no way around the truth– I thought I had lost any chance at softness years ago, like I’d damned myself with too many rough choices and dirty sheets. I feel both too young to expect much and too mature to afford not to. I thought I lost my careful hands trying to get here. I’m shocked that I am still able to kiss without the bite.
V. My life up to this point has felt like a constant “getting out.” I needed to be the opposite of where I was: get out of the South, get out of this body (or get out of this body’s problems), get out of bad relationships with friends, family and almost-forevers. I wake up today and I should be rushing to get out of this particular room because my time is up tomorrow. I am expected to have moved into another space, ready to tackle another year of higher education so I can get out–into the real world. But I’m beginning to settle into where I am. Not in a literal sense–I’m still moving my things across campus and sometimes I still feel like I’m constantly in the midst of fleeing–but I’ve stopped wanting to press fast-forward so often. There isn’t the same ache of desperation when I think about the future. I’m not waiting anymore; I am very much “here” right now. Instead of chasing absence, I am finally present. I’ve decided that it’s a nice place to be.