Is Anybody Home?

I never really bought into the idea that crying in public is liberating. That hasn’t stopped me from doing it though, with my greatest hits culminating in first half of last year.  Between high school graduation and my first few weeks of college, tears were abound. Who could forget the time I was straight up bawling in a restaurant while a waiter took my family’s order the night of graduation because I was just so, so sad? Or the time I started crying alone in the school library because I found out I got into my dream university in the city? Or when I first moved into my dorm and I rewatched How I Met Your Mother all day because it reminded me of home then secretly cried all night in a bed just a few inches from my sleeping roommate? Or—my magnum opus—the time I was in a public van that was dead quiet, and all you could hear were the passengers’ labored breathing and my half-hidden wet squeals, because I haven’t been home in a month and there was nothing more I wanted than to be where I wasn’t?

Crying in private is where it’s at, with my bedroom bearing witness to my best (or worst?) crying sessions. When I was 16 I wanted to be a grown-up so, so bad, so I would go home after school and just lie in bed and be sad. When summers would come I hated that I wake up in the same suburb every single day so I’d lie in bed and be sad. I spent my teenhood wishing I was where the skyscrapers were, where I could go on adventures even during the dead of the night—when you’re in the city, the night is never dead, anyway. 

Now, three years later, everytime I’d find myself tearing up on the sidewalk or having to rush to a restroom cubicle or holding back tears in a fastfood chain because I wanted to go home so, so bad, I’d laugh. Now that’s liberating. I’d giggle at my glassy eyes, at my shaky hands, because wasn’t I just 16 and wishing I was here, in this very sidewalk, in this very cubicle, in this very restaurant? I’d always tell myself, “You live a couple hours away from home. You go home every weekend. You could step on a bus and go home right now if you wanted to.” So I do. For many nights I’d pack my homework and a pair of clothes and tell my mom, “Leave the lights on. I’m going home.”

Not very sustainable, I admit, and, as the months went by, not very relieving either. It didn’t really feel like coming home. It’s such a weird, disorienting feeling, how you start to not feel comfortable in the nooks you felt safe in since childhood. My little brother’s morning routine had changed and suddenly I had no place to put my things because my empty cabinets have been used for something else. I grew frustrated because I didn’t know where the keys to the backdoor were, or the extra sheets, or my old books, when the last time I was here I was sure they were on the shelf by the kitchen, the drawer on the downstairs bedroom, under my bed. I couldn’t really help but feel defeated; as if the walls of my bedroom were disappointed to see me back. 

Whenever I’m in the city I long for the warmth of my suburb. But when I’m back home I feel like residue, markings of a time that has passed, a ghost trying to find my way home. I guess it was my mistake in assuming home would be exactly the same as I’d left it—I mean, I’ve changed, what made me think it wouldn’t, either?