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Posts Tagged ‘homesickness

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

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city of my heart

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The title is a lyric from one of my friend’s songs. When I was in London last spring, I kept thinking of that song.

I met a girl last night who was born in Germany to American parents. We share this thing that marks us, even though it’s invisible. We might have talked all night without discovering our common difference.

Her friend was teasing her about her Wisconsin accent. And I said, when I get together with my sister, I get my old accent back a little. Then her friend asked me where I was from. And I said, like I usually do, Well, I was born in California.
And the friend goes, Oh! Where in California?
And I told her, San Francisco.
I’m from Fresno, she said, excited.

I have no idea where Fresno is. I have no idea where anything in California is, except San Francisco and L.A., and I’m pretty sure Sacramento is somewhere in the middle. This is why I don’t say I’m from California, because inevitably I run into people who really are from California, and then I am revealed as an interloper.

I left when I was eight, I explained, I don’t know where Fresno is. So they asked where I moved to and I said, Sweden.

So she told me she was born in Germany. I could tell she was excited to tell someone who had been overseas, but we almost never knew. There is nothing to show our difference.

I wonder if she feels it. If she longs to return. If either of us will, or if we’ve already left forever.

Although I am unmarked, I feel it every day, homesickness, a pull to places I cannot claim. I was walking down Broadway yesterday and I saw a woman in a quilted silk jacket, and for a moment, for several blocks, I missed Shanghai so badly I could taste its loss. Like metal on the back of my tongue, like I was crossing a river with a knife in my mouth.

Written by ponyboi

October 16, 2009 at 9:53 pm

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