March 6, 2010

California


It is strange to be in California, so warm and green and peopled. My attachment to this place seems to have less to do with the place than with my parents, who are my only real people connections to Fremont at this point. Most of the people I knew here have left, or are now strangers. I have affection for some things: the sight of the creek I jumped every morning to get to school, or the incredibly small high schoolers running track, or the sound of the drum line practicing in the parking lot in the afternoon. I recognize this place, though with my eyes more so than my heart. It is different than Virginia in that way. I do not love this house; too much happened here between my childhood's end and now, if this is even adulthood. There are so many traffic lights and stop signs in this place, constant punctuation. Interruptions to my thoughts or my movements. Everyone is going somewhere, and they are on a schedule, and I can see why I had road rage by the time I left California, a condition that has now totally disappeared in my time in Virginia. I told my father, By the time you get stuck behind your fifth tractor you're not so upset by it anymore. The water smells strange, and my parents' house feels small, and full of things. People sound unnerving, their voices unfamiliar or the cadence of their speech alien. I know it sounds ridiculous to claim that I have become so acclimated to another place in so little time as seven months, but I think that more than anything I am unused to being so surrounded by anyone, and the voices of people I do not know surprise me. Everything is fast, and I realize that I have been living slowly.

I have already consumed Chinese food, Afghan food, and Vietnamese food, and am awaiting the incoming digestive crisis. All delicious, all familiar. The variety of everything is startling, and while I often find myself wishing for all these things while I am on my island, I am glad of their absence in some way. It helps to differentiate eras of my life, I think, these distinctions. I can't help but associate California with my before life. My life as I lived it and thought about it before Laura died. It is sad, but for me, California belongs to Laura now. Maybe that is why I left. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to make new memories here, so colored is this place. I did the right thing in leaving. I never know that more clearly than when I visit, necessary as it may be to visit my parents and my friends and acknowledge my life here before I left it. In my first entry I included a part of a poem that once spoke to me. I do not think I have ever understood as fully as I do now. I see this place, this Californian place, and I see it now more clearly than I ever had in living here. I see the town I grew up in, and the room I slept in, and the streets I walked. And, I think I see the person I was before this happened, and I begin to better understand myself, and who I want to be now, after.

My friend, a painter, blacks over his lines
and packets his pad:
"We never see a place," he says,
"Until we leave it behind." Yes,
and by then it has become someplace else.

-Nicholas Christopher, Crossing the Equator

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