Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Going Home

Where is that again?

When you've lived abroad for a few years, you may start thinking about what it's like "back home". You may even halfway decide to go back, or "repatriate". Some do.

Some don't.

There are reasons. Everyone has their own person reasons for doing this or that, or not, but they do fall into broad categories.

Learning the language

You may think that because you're from a place, you can just go back and pick up where you left off.

But if, like so many of us who have spent time in prison, you find that things are really different, and you don't understand people anymore. And they don't understand you.

For example, take "cell phone". On the inside you use a common phone bolted to a wall. No phones in the cells, except for Dominic, and he was special. You didn't ask to use his phone. Or even look at him.

Outside, "cell phone" is something else entirely. There you are.

And if you're coming back from abroad, your whole day is like this.

People have funny habits

Again, you grew up here, so, you know, you think you ought to understand how life works.

But you don't, anymore.

You're used to getting up a little later, going to bed a little earlier, doing more walking, and having time for your family and friends. If you see someone on the street, you go out of your way to stop and chat.

Over there.

Back "home" you rush. If you try to slow down you get run over. And that's on the sidewalk.

"Hey", and "Bye", are considered complete conversations. Everyone moves in a blur.

What happens on television is considered important. Friends are people you can make money from, or sell things to.

When people smile, their eyes don't. Instead you see rictus ringed with teeth.

Owning a car, and then sitting in traffic for hours a day is considered high status. As if.

Some days it seems like that crinkling sound is the only one there is. People buy things, tear layers of wrapping off, and then wad it all up, throw it out, and start over. How is that supposed to be a life?

Employment

Employment falls in there too. A job is who you are, where you've been, and where you're going.

It is your worth.

The more you manage to take from everyone else, the more you have, the bigger your pile, the more important you are.

Well, maybe you've been living where your job is the role you fill to support society. It still is, in a sense, who you are, but it's because you actually do something and not because you are a walking spreadsheet displaying your numbers and flexing your dollar signs every whichway.

Frozen time

Despite everything being different from what you remember, the most important things are all the same.

It's exactly like growing up and moving away, then coming back for a visit to your home town, and all your former best friends.

You find out pretty fast that they have all barely changed. They still have all the same failings and stunted outlooks that they had when you were all 16, but you aren't any more. But they are.

Even the best and the brightest seem like caterpillars happy to stay put in a little backyard garden, blithely unaware that there may be a mountains and forests and oceans over the horizon, or that, if they really grew up, they could sprout real wings and fly away.

And this is another reason you can't ever go back. It isn't there anymore anyway.

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