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am i there yet

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So, New York. One sunny afternoon, my sister and I walked to the park. We could see the house our mom grew up in, across the street.

I was saying something about how I feel weird talking to our cousin’s kids, how they have grown up in the place where their parents and grand-parents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents lived, and if our mom had stayed put we’d have full Long Island accents.

And my sister goes, yeah, they have roots. Her baby asleep on her chest. She says, we don’t have any roots.

I couldn’t speak for a minute. And when I could, I didn’t. My sister has an apartment, a long-term boyfriend, a baby. What are these things if not roots?

We went to NYC a couple of days later, my sister and her boyfriend and their baby and I. We walked down Canal, through Chinatown, and the familiar signs, the street vendors, the press of bodies, the music of tonal languages, the smell of exhaust and incense and roast duck enfolded me. And for the first time in weeks I didn’t feel that familiar ache, the sense of displacement.

We were resting on a park bench and I said to her, doesn’t it make you feel homesick? even though that wasn’t what I meant at all, and I was going to say something else but she said, No. China wasn’t home. I don’t feel that way. Do you?

And I said no.

Which is true in some ways. I don’t feel like China is home. I don’t feel like anyplace is home, but I get homesick for the places that used to feel like home.

I used to feel like Chicago was home. For about three years, I was content. I loved biking and cooking and my loose-knit community of queers and artists. I felt relieved every time I came back from visiting my folks in MI, felt that ache in my throat ease.

I started getting restless again two years ago. In the winter. Everything grey. That was when I switched my major, figuring, among other things, that as a teacher I would be able to travel.

This spring and summer, things were all right for a while. J. came back, and I was really caught up with her and with bike taxi. But since the season turned, I ache, like I’m rusting inside.

There are these ads on the outside of the El. I’ll see it fly above me, on my bike or walking, and I’ll stop in my tracks: a long picture of Shanghai, the Pearl Tower, the glittering riverbanks. I don’t know what I would find if I went back, I’m a little afraid to find out. I’m worried about leaving my sick parents, my kid sister who’s now a mother, about missing J. so much that I can’t enjoy my surroundings. But I can’t stay here much longer. I’m crawling out of my skin.


Written by ponyboi

November 6, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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