I’ve written extensively and enthusiastically about all my temporary places of residence: rural and urban Japan, the southern coast of India, the American Midwest. But rarely do I describe the place where I was raised, and where I have spent the majority of my life thus far. If I am unreasonably reclusive about it, maybe I have some excuse in the double edge of a hometown.
A hometown contains formative experiences but these are also, inevitably, and sometimes necessarily, accompanied by memories of heartache, tragedy, and bad behavior. I both love and loathe returning to this town, with its endlessly tall palm trees, dry, yellow plains, and blue-skied mornings off the speckled sea. As I look down from a flight home onto the churning, foaming Mediterranean, I am filled to the brim with a numbing, bubbling, phantasmagorical sensation too akin to dissociative stress. Waiting at baggage claim, dazed beyond jet lag, I experience my return as though forcefully ejected from my own body. In the front seat of my mother’s car as she leaps onto the highway, I am swept away by a wave of blisteringly black magic that chucks me back into twisting histories I would rather not relive. In the end, I cannot divorce the pain from the place.
It has always been easier to remain tucked away in the comfort of other towns, other countries, other lives. In my case, maintaining distance is nothing but cowardice, but, like most cowards, I feel as though there is there is no realistic alternative but running away. Bumped from continent to continent in childhood, I grew up pinned between competing parents, colliding cultures, and displaced heritage; I experienced deracination before I knew what putting down roots could even come to mean. I live now like Baba Yaga: alone, ambiguous, moving through the clouded forest in a house that walks from place to place on chicken legs.