Don't ask me where I'm from

March 28, 2023

By your 40s you should have an answer to “where are you from?”, but every time you’re asked you curl inwards on yourself, imploding like a star that will never go supernova. To truly say where you’re from is to say “I don’t know,” thereby inviting more questions than you have the will to answer. Instead you develop the habit of naming the last place you’ve lived, giving the executioner’s blade enough of a pause for you to roll clear of the blow and scamper back to safety.

At 16 the State of New York deems your parents unfit, and determines the best course of action to be your legal emancipation. You live with friends until you can flee to Boston, the first person in your family to attend college and therefore utterly clueless as to how to attend college. 18 months in you admit defeat and spend your early 20s crisscrossing the country, devouring new identities with the glee and abandonment of a child let loose in a candy bar.

You’re 27 and in a spacious Wenatchee loft when you receive the acceptance letter, and immediately pack your car to move to nowhere, Wisconsin. You try three different degrees and eventually settle on Biochemistry because the professors are kind to you, all while making $2.13 an hour pouring coffee for cops at the nearby truck stop. You befriend the locals and skirt the 2008 recession by going to graduate school in Montana.

Bozeman is breathtaking and you’re certain this mountain refuge will become home, but the trauma that’s inflicted upon you is sharp and severe and your taste for the place curdles on your tongue. Desperate, you rekindle a long lost college love, move to his NYC apartment, and become a science teacher. Stumbling up the stairs at 14th St—Union Square at 2AM you pass a half-naked man with antlers on his head and laugh—certain that this must be the place.

Three months later you’re moving to Seattle with a new boyfriend for reasons you still cannot explain.

By 33 you realize you can no longer name all the places you’ve lived and so you head south, adding Dallas to the list. You don’t know it, but this is the closest you’ll ever come to home. You’ll mock it and hate it and resist every effort to put down roots, but you will come to know Dallas better than you have known any place before. The city will seep into your skin and pepper your speech with y’alls and reckons, opening itself to you, offering grace and opportunity, and after eight years of being nurtured by the heat you’ll have had enough.

You turn your back and head to Chicago, still searching.

Posted on:
March 28, 2023
3 minute read, 453 words
essays and shorts
creative writing nonfiction essay
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