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  • Writer's pictureNora Studholme

The thing about leaving a place

Written sitting in JKF.

Today we gave away the last things in the apartment (a mattress, some unused socks, a salt grinder) to a man named Dave, who proclaimed: “If it’s free, it’s for me.” Good motto Dave, you found your people today.

All our things sat in the empty space, made suddenly small by the absence of all the things that made it home. Mine in 3 bags, Paul’s in 4 (books and pens take up less room than paints and easels). 7 bags between the two of us, and I realize suddenly that if someone were to break in and steal them while we’re out returning a wifi modem we’d own nothing in this world.

The Lyft driver doesn’t flinch at the number of bags, bless him. As we drive I reflect on what it means to leave a place. We’re leaving in body, but what does it mean to really leave?

Certainly, you reflect on your time there, and when you do, it’s the feelings rather than the things. Friends and faces and moments and music. I guess that means those are the things we should be paying attention to all along.

You pass some sloppy cartoon graffiti on the side of the family owned pharmacy, and instead of it looking messy you feel there’s something beautiful about it. You keep looking and you realize it’s beautiful because the scribbles and the dubiously talented artist are part of the city, they are the city. You feel an almost maternal love for them.

You watch the streets flash by — that restaurant that you remember for the time you sat outside in the rain and ate under your own umbrellas, laughing so hard you almost couldn’t finish your meal; that place you danced until you had to take your shoes off, even though the floor was a mess; that street corner where you sat down and cried on the phone, right there in public; that park where you spent hours playing games, and even having a winter time glow stick dance party.

You notice how the city fit into you like a puzzle piece — not that you’re empty now that you’re leaving it, more that you are aware of where your edges are, what shape you are on the inside, in your heart. You wonder briefly how that shape will fit where you’re headed, what nooks and crannies you’ll slip into that will make you feel like you’ve arrived back home.

And then you’re out of the familiar places, up on the impersonal highway, pulling away. We’ve left so many times, for a few days, a few weeks, or months. But you can always tell if you’re coming back again. And if you know you’re not, the buildings feel more like water, mutable and powerful, parting around you as you drive. When the buildings slow to a trickle and the road is rushing by now, you realize how tired you are. It’s the same kind of tired you feel after a long swim, hollow and clean. And your eyes close and you miss the last of the buildings rushing by.

And now, here we are, boarding our flight. Literally! I better go get in line. Andiamo!

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