We both decide that we can’t stay here and we won’t go home. What we have decided is to fight, to see if we can find some way to live that isn’t anesthetized by superficiality and fear.
At home, it was as if I was stunted. In an atmosphere of such liveliness, I only saw restraints. I felt kept from becoming a terrible person, but my capacity for empathy also seemed pruned. Maybe that’s just a part of youth. I don’t know. I do know that home always felt like a cage—keeping everything out and penning me in.
Here, I felt that I almost lived, very shortly. Since, it has been a prolonged, violent death. Now, it feels like everything and everyone screams out for violence, for all of our blood. So many people I’ve met here feel like ice and death—all numb and introverted and unfeeling with big shows of emotion as if it all evens out to create a meaningful life. I am certain that this is uncharitable. I am even more certain it is true.
Rejection is never welcome, even when it is right. Here, silences stack up, summing rejection and feeling so sharp and intense that even as I fight, I welcome the coldness that plays at ambivalence. I have become so timid and unsure that my own worth seems like wavering pennies at the bottom of a mall fountain. In and out, I no longer feel in focus.
Most people here seem wrapped in cold that is simultaneously insecure and sanctimonious. And so, I wrap myself in color and read and reread poetry so that I have visceral reminders that this place is not the world. I find comfort in words the way I haven’t since grade school, but there is such overwhelming sadness with that comfort. That sadness is the lack of a place.
For this, my final semester, I am working with an instructor (far too bright for my quickly crumbling self-esteem). We meet and attempt to talk about race. We talk about how to talk about race and we talk about what might make an effective course. I say, “I think you’re right. I think the only way to get at race here is sideways,” and even as I say this, I envision myself as a sidestepping crustacean: gritty, a scavenger of the dead.
And so, we work, painstakingly linking race to class to law to theory to diaspora to place to home to real-world ramifications. I escape into books, which are almost no escape at all, and constantly pull myself back off a precipice that feels more like sleepy quicksand.
With her guidance, I am teaching myself about home and place.
Every week we meet and ask each other, “What happens to a people when they have no home?”
While it is undeniable that lack of a home can manifest in creation of inclusive, hybridized culture, what I am increasingly finding scares me.
I turn the question over in my head until it is smooth like the silver dollar my grandfather used to keep in his pocket. It becomes a chant that I ask myself: “Where is my place?”