I can’t talk about home the same way people who grew up loving theirs do. The day I finally left was my first real day on Earth. My entire girlhood sat in boxes and suitcases and labeled plastic containers. Funny how a daughter’s entire lifetime can fit so easily in the cramped trunk of a rental car. I can’t talk to you about loving anything about home otherwise I’d be a liar and I hate liars. Until I was 18 I pined for new city. I was a scarlet-haired wild card of a girl with too much fire raging inside her skin to obey the laws of a sleepy suburb. There I seethed at Sunday mass, waged war with God and man, learned to loathe the only friends I’d made, broke my own heart with all the forbidden words I tucked inside of it. I wore my worst nightmare on my face, made anger my religion, misplaced my soul in dusty corners. My parents tried their hardest to give me a happy childhood but that particular world could not provide it. I still respect the hell out of them for trying and I know that place tried, too. There I learned manners and how to properly ditch them. There I felt 30-something before I turned 12 and all burned out before I even got my first taste of real life. Home never felt like my own. I knew it all like the back of my hand: the man-made marina (good piers for crying), the middle school track (also good for crying), my pink palace of a bedroom (perhaps the best out of all of them). Until I was 18 all I knew was that littered backyard creek and the ballet studio with mirrored walls and that massive storm drain in the woods you could walk through just to muddy your boots. The cashier at the grocery with the electric blue eyeshadow who’d been there forever, every secret grove hidden enough to scream bloody murder in and believe me I did. God, I think about it now and I remember that constant choking feeling. At Lake Something Or Other I was a writer without a world to write about. I can’t imagine ever purely loving it but there’s something strange worth missing about the peeling red paint of our front door, how everyone on our street took turns feeding each other’s cats whenever we left for vacation, the stupid four-way stops scattered here and there where no one knows whether to stop or go and always almost kill each other. Something about the graffiti on the rocks near the Potomac and the way I could’ve sworn on life itself that I’d marry the boy down the street. Planned the wedding and wrote secret vows and burned them in a funeral pyre of my own creation. Funny how an entire life can be grown over and taken up. I’ve seen ivy overcome old buildings all the time. The same thing happened when I left. Whenever I visit that place I swear, speeding down the parkway and all of the neighboring farms, you can hear my little girl heartbeat pounding through the windows. It was broken before but I think I’ve gotten it to work again. All I had to do was go.

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