So I had to do a piece of “creative” writing about DC, for the Job I’m Not Talking About, and it gave me a lot of trouble. Which was incredibly confusing at first. I love DC and generally, I have lots to say about things I like. Anyone who has ever tried to talk to me about Serious Things when I was drunk has likely realized this. Yet, here I was, tasked to write a poem about DC, something that should have been easy as breathing, and I was coming up blank.
I stopped thinking about it in favor of more pressing non-poetical matters, and then I overheard some people talking about what makes you a local, and it gave me a pause. I am legally a resident of the District of Columbia, but this year I will only have spent a maximum of 4, not completely consecutive, months here. Last year I only spent one month in DC, and only 2 weeks of that was consecutive. I don’t spend any time here anymore. It’s not really my city in the way it was in High School. It’s hard to write intimately about a city that you only recognize from memory, not experience anymore. The streets in my head don’t mesh with the streets in front of my eyes, and it’s jarring.
I have unhooked myself from one city, but I have not attached myself to Chicago. I go to school there, but I don’t fell like I live there yet. It is more of a home, because I am there more of the time, but I am struggling with calling it my home. I don’t know it and it does not know me. I know the airports better than my (is it mine? I want it to be, but it isn’t yet) neighborhood.
I’ve become transient and homeless. I am a step above living out a suitcase; I live out of drawers that aren’t mine. When I unpack, it is with the knowledge that in a few months I will need to pack again. Where I used to ground myself in my room, in my things, what I thought of as “my space”, I must now find stability in what can fit in 2 suitcases and a few boxes. My family is downsizing, so in a few months my mom will take what is left of my childhood, the things that managed to make it through 2 prior moves, and decide what gets to come with us and what does not. 19 years in two boxes, that’s it. I always knew they planned to sell the house, but I still thought of my room as my room, a place to store what was left of whom I’d been, but needed to keep, so I would remember what was important to me then.
DC is the home of my heart, but the home of my body is whatever I can carry with me, and anything that does not fit, is too heavy, and can’t be shipped stays behind. I am trying to tie my sense of self, into myself, not in the things I have, because I will not have an actual permanent residence for years. I don’t have a magazine subscription, because, where can they send it? How many addresses will it be forwarded too before it realizes I don’t live anywhere long enough for it to catch up with me, so it gives up, and it returns to sender?
I have an oddly complicated relationship with the past, so I need reminders of who I was, so I can remember why I have changed. It’s why I like tattoos; I plan on building an inked record of myself that I can carry with me on my skin.
I ended up writing about Chicago, but I changed the names and places because at the end of the day, a city is a city.
In the dark, they all sound and feel the same.