And it has been
of a year.
I have worn
under my sleeves,
on my thighs,
running down my cheeks.
This is what
looks like, my dear.
I drove to my hometown last night, sitting in the passenger seat next to a boy who’d seen me grow up (though I didn’t always like to think about that).
The city felt crowded as he navigated the streets whose pavement was just as rocky as it felt growing up. The turns were sharp - left, right, left. I felt the same fear of getting caught on the streets that were more challenging to maneuver: the place where I’m from is riddled with one way streets, a headache to anyone unfamiliar with the pattern of the city. “There’s something to be said about living on the water though,” I said, looking at how the lights of the shore reflected on the great lake. The water is grounding, I thought. He kept driving. He’s funny, this boy, because he has an incredible ability to share with you all of his crowning achievements in between poking at your sore spots. He knows them well, after so many years. He’s a flawless liar, with just enough humility that you feel obliged not to distrust him. That is, if you haven’t observed him manipulating you with the same strategy for years. After a while you learn his game. When I had agreed to meet up with him a few weeks prior, I was eager to satisfy a certain rumbling in my belly, but hesitant. Had I outgrown this type of behaviour? I felt strangely oversized sitting in that passenger seat.
Later that night, as he paraded me through his workplace, although still somehow managing to ignore me, I realised that it wasn’t the activity that I had outgrown so much as the lack of respect that came with it. And beyond respect was also the lack of challenge that this boy presented. I knew exactly what I could get out of him, and it wasn’t a ruthlessly honest discourse about what it meant to grow up and have the world exploding at our fingertips. It didn’t help that the worlds we were living in, both present and future, were far from synonymous.
I sat at the bar, relatively quiet for the rest of the evening. I spoke carefully, faked a phone call to escape to the outside air without the burden of a cigarette and stared honestly at myself in the mirror when I used the bathroom. I wasn’t missing Eric, nor was I ashamed of where I was and why I had chosen to come. I just felt myself growing a little stronger into myself, like I was filling out the bones I wasn’t sure I wanted to inhabit a few years earlier.
As we drove back to my home the following morning, I felt relief in the smooth pavement beneath the tires. The roads are wider here, and lined with trees and open space. The sun was shining as we drove in. There’s no great lake to plant yourself in front of here, but there is a river meandering through and it is flanked with eruptions of colour and thoughtfulness in the fall. Three years ago, after one final stifling summer spent cramped in those streets, I wriggled my way out of my hometown. I have no family left there now, just a few old friends and a couple coffee shops that I’ll always consider home. While it’s nice to know that Hamilton is still there for me, there is a sort of relief in not having to navigate that city anymore. I wonder how this boy manages to live in and among his past, with every street corner and bus stop chalk full of memories and mistakes gone by. I came to this town to make different kinds of mistakes, and it felt damn good to close the door as he drove back to what I had left behind. I needed more space this time.
There’s some kind of pleasure that comes from playing your game so well
that it becomes my game.
And you don’t even know it.