“You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” [Gatsby] cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
By the time this posts, I will be driving with Bear in a little red hatchback, trailing a UHaul truck with all our (well, my) worldly possessions, putting hundreds of miles between us and our 20s. My farewell to New York was a week-long bacchanal of bars, booze, and barfing, as well as it should have been. No stately goodbye for JJ and the girl she was when she lived there. No dignity.
Once, when I told my mother I wanted to dye my hair bright teal (this was at the wild young age of 27), she arched a perfectly groomed brow, shook her salon-coiffed head, and asked in her best Aggrieved Korean Mother voice, “Whatever happened to grace, elegance, and sophistication?”
I was never interested in being graceful, or elegant, or sophisticated, although at various points in my life, I’ve been accused of all three. I was much more interested in being, well, interesting, and different, and unique. It takes too much work to be respectable, and I never cared about what other people thought of me. Let them judge, but being graceful, elegant, and sophisticated was not a priority in my life; I’d much rather be ridiculous. Children are ridiculous, and grown-ups are respectable, and despite my age (which I’m feeling more and more with each passing day, damn you, metabolism), I don’t want to grow up.
As I said my goodbyes, people asked me if it was hard to leave. In some respects, yes, but in many others no. People imbue farewells with such weight and significance, but I’ve always preferred to tread lightly. A defence mechanism? Very likely, but in my old age, goodbyes are less momentous, seismic events, and more like one long and prolonged sigh. It’s hard to turn the page on an old chapter of your life when the spine has been cracked and creased. The book just falls open to that spot over and over again, even after you’ve moved on. I’ve moved on; the farewells are a formality.
I find it hard to hold on. Some people can’t let go, but I can’t seem to hold on. Sometimes it amazes me that I lasted in New York for as long as I did, that I didn’t get bored, pick up, and start again somewhere new before this. Perhaps I didn’t have a good enough reason to go. For all the agency I purport to exert in my own life, so many things have happened to me, rather than because of me. By the time I was 16 years old, I had already moved 8 times, had been to three different elementary schools, had gone to a different high school from all my friends. In two more years I would pick everything up again and move clear across country, and then two years after that, I would pick everything up and move even further, across an ocean, to another country. Moving was a habit, not an occasional annoyance, so I can’t seem to find any grief or sorrow about leaving.
They say that the people make where you live, and that your friends, and not the location is what matters. I disagree; New York was always about the place, never the people. It’s true I’ve met some of the best friends of my life here, but they are forever. Or not. Only time will tell. I make friends and lose them as easily as I might pick up and then lose loose change, but New York is not so easily disposable. New York is not about other people; it is a city of me, just me. It’s my feelings, my past, my self. I will never be able to get that back, even if I were just moving across the Hudson River to New Jersey. My friends will come with me, in spirit, if not in body. But New York will not.
I am unmoored. I have had no home for past three weeks, spending time between my old apartment, my parents’ house, and Bear’s parents’ house. I’m a homebody, and this lack of an anchor is making me come undone. I don’t want to live out of suitcases anymore. I’m not an Angelena or a New Yorker anymore, I’m not a Southerner (I was never a New Jerseyite) and the fact that I can’t answer ¿De dónde eres? at the moment makes me feel…adrift. I am a balloon untied and let go, floating in the breeze. Soy de… I am from… where?
I am between adventure. Leaving and settling, but it’s the long periods of indefinite space in between the beginning and the end that’s hardest.