It wasn’t you, it was me. I was having a very Girls-esque quarter-life crisis and I needed to get the fuck out of dodge. Birmingham, you were great, but you were pulling me down with what I can only describe as habitual staleness and Bible Belt tendencies.
Before you get huffy and send a tornado my way, let me explain.
You and I were together for all of my adult years until I was 27. You host around 200,000 city people proper. I dated or drank with all of them. You enticed me with your promise of bars and southern food at 2AM. Over a decade I found myself in an endless loop of bars, $1 well nights, Tuesday pint nights, mind erasers at what can only be described as the shittiest dive bar in the south (the Upside Down Plaza—they’re proud of themselves, don’t worry), where all bad decisions are born and there’s probably puke on every bathroom surface, where there’s also no functioning locks.
So I drank with you. You got me through some tough times and most of my twenties. I went to your parks and quaint local shops: you can be quite darling, Birmingham. But I started getting bored. I found myself wanting more, so I started taking road trips. Just little ones to begin with. Weekend trips to Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta. I soaked up the different foods, coffee shops, and people. I found the “new” of all these places exhilarating. The farther from you I could get, the better.
I was cheating on you.
Just like Don Draper, I tend to only like the beginnings of things. I can only blame my short attention span on that one. So yes, Birmingham, you may be the “Portland of the South,” with your amazing concert venues, weird statues, hip breweries, and fried foods, but I found my mind always drifting toward Somewhere Else. The funny thing is, everyone I knew at some point or another would confess the same thing: One day I’ll move to _____. Birmingham is great and all, but….
Everyone wants something more, something different—especially if you’re single, in your twenties, and tethered to nothing in particular. And even more so if you’re tired of running into the same people at the same places and getting trapped in the same dead-end jobs. You find yourself itching to be somewhere more exciting, if even for a little while.
So one day I actually did it: I left you with very little notice. I gave away most of my belongings, quit my coffee-shop job, put my books in storage, and crept quietly off the stage and onto another set. I drove for three days and ended up in northern California. I had family there, so it was easy enough. You might ask, why California? You know me too well: I’m painfully fair-skinned and I love rain. Neither of those help me in California; it never rains and the sun is set to full blast until 9PM in the summer months. But it was different and exciting and new.
I’ve seen so many things I’ve never seen before. From the majestic snow-capped mountains of Washington, to the clear blue water of Lake Tahoe, to the foggy beaches of Bodega Bay, to the city sprawl of the real Portland. There’s a lot of “pretty stuff” in any given direction, and there’s so much to explore. And the people here are different. They’re more likely to sing the praises of their yoga mats than offer up a Roll, Tide. I’m OK with that. But it’s also a little sad: I miss how proud you are.
I miss you in a few ways, actually. Even though I was scrambling to get away from you, to “experience” new places and things, I’d give almost anything to spend a rainy night with you, to hear the cicadas off in the distance, and to walk around Southside eating cheap Chinese food and wondering if it’s late enough yet to go to that famous dive bar. I miss those horrible dirt roads that threaten to destroy my tiny car every time I venture a few miles outside of you, because no matter how angry I’d get as my car jostled around the rocks and clay, there would be a canopy of sunlit trees guiding my way out. How could I stay mad? And when I think about the porch parties, the laughing faces of my friends, and all the brunch dates I’d make, my chest swells with sadness and I think how easily it would be to go back to you.
There’s a saying. You can never go home again. I know it would be like getting back together with an ex-boyfriend. There’s a reason we broke up. The fun would fade again and we’d be left shrugging our shoulders, irritated once more at each other, throwing beer bottles at walls and slamming doors. I annoyed you just as much as you annoyed me. Your bleating tornado sirens and humidity piss me off. I know I’m a terrible girlfriend. I’m fidgety and loud and I’m never going to stop drinking too much or thinking about you.
Birmingham, you’ll always be my first true love. I’m sorry that I keep drunk-texting you from Sacramento. I can’t promise that will stop anytime soon.