THE CITY I DIDN’T CHOOSE

Part Five

Places are people. When I drive past the landmarks of my hometown all I see are ghosts of varied significance.

Exhibit A: behind the air conditioning unit of our church where I had my first three kisses after stealthily sneaking away from the youth group bonfire held in the parish parking lot, my fifteenth summer. B: the grassy, pesticide-ridden hill behind the tennis courts of my high school where I’d sit for hours making sunflower chains to avoid falling for a boy I only pretended to love out of fear of being alone again. C: me, alone again, rocking back and forth in every quiet corner of that postage stamp world I could find, to silence the scream of guilt in my chest. Only in those hideaways could I make it stop.

Same goes for the mountains. I see him everywhere. His shape in the grass, his fingerprints on the doorknobs leading to our top secret passageways, his feet dangling over the ledges of the rocks where I’d meet him every afternoon to sit, sandwich in hand, and talk about trivial things. Sometimes I pass by and find myself looking up mindlessly, that pull of muscle memory half-expecting to see him there, swinging his shoes like a metronome I know by heart. I don’t know why I do. Even God knows I hate him now.

I read somewhere that the Earth behaves much like a living thing, one mass, one body capable of regenerating. It’s all push and pull, call and response, chemicals mixing, stirring, churning, cyclical. Always in the process of healing itself. Thinking this way, the very land that tethered us close is now undoing us from the landscape. Purging us like an organ rejection, cells uprooted, dust recycled, physical remnants of memories torn to microscopic shreds and separated for good.

No one has to lift a finger. The Earth will erase us and all we have to do is wait.

One day I’ll walk our paths and sit in our hideaways and see nothing but light seeping through the trees, soaking my bones, washing over my body in the city that I chose.

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