I started moving around from country to country when I was a teenager. In a lot of ways it was a great experience that taught me about people and how to adapt to different environments. On the other hand, it left me with a chronic feeling of impermanency and the inability to physically commit to any specific place.
Chicago is one of those dormant cities I’ve boxed away and seldom think about. Until I’m back. Then it hits me all at once––the sounds and sensations of familiar streets and smells, of memories, and loved ones I’ve left behind. Only in this city, my city, am I allowed to reconcile with the past.
I drive past landscapes and reconnect them one by one like dots––old apartments, my mother’s house, places I used to frequent with my brother and sister, that unique windy city skyline I never tired of.
At a Caribou the other day I was immediately transported to 1999, sitting with E in my VW Bug, zonked out of our minds on conversation and coffee. Like me, E lives elsewhere now. The only witness to all those heady years of metaphysical chats are the empty parking lots.
Like the proverbial silent tree, if I stood in that same spot, would I find a clue that would tell me about the people we once were?
I don’t form physical attachments because despite our best intentions, nothing remains of us but transient dust and ephemeral memories. Places, even favourite ones, can’t do much but rise and fall, always looming in the distance and keeping secrets.