What is it like knowing that a town doesn’t belong to you?
Me, I’ve never belonged to a town or city or country. I’m like that poem about the art of losing.
Even now, when I look at this town, I see you. The train station where you’d pick me up, the rundown little shack where we had soup, the frightfully expensive restaurant where you made me try all the stupid types of seafood you like, prepared in ways I hate and your very particular taste buds love.
We’ve got such massively different tastes, in fact – I like my crabs with masala and you like yours in salted egg whites.
And this bus is taking me across town, to the train station where you’d pick me up.
I’m okay now, but I still wish I had made this town mine. I wish that it didn’t resound with echoes of you and your bad habits and good ideas.
The taxi stand where I first waited for you, not realizing you were upstairs. You came down to get me, and I stared at you so blankly – it was akin to a blind date, not recognizing you with your hair suddenly long.
But I digress.
Why is it when we lose lovers, we lose places?
The city which you so boldly walked becomes infested, haunted by ghosts of that ever-living love. It’s no longer yours, no longer a whole – it’s formed by places you spent in those idle waking loving hours, grateful to have and be had.
The supermarket where he kissed you on the earlobe while you studied fruit, the pharmacy where he put his hand around your waist for the very first time and your heart skipped a beat, the second step of the shoplot next to the ATM where you waited while he bought chestnuts to share, the two gas stations which, after a sudden left turn, mark your entrance into upper-middle-class suburbia and you bring your hands together Namaste like that, just like that, greeting the Nepali neighborhood watch who knows where you are going and derives no small amusement from the fact that you turn up in different taxis each time and can never remember how to find his house.
These all interspersed with spaces and gaps of nothingness, gray places that have not yet been made part of the fabric of memory, you know they are there but you don’t look – or perhaps you look but you don’t see.
I sometimes wonder if towns don’t truly belong to us. They belong to memory and to the people we share them with.
The fingerprints and footsteps and tiny bits of soul we leave behind last, sustain, endure.
We build this city not with brick and mortar but with emotion and experience, only to lose it to the person we built it with.
My town. Your town. My things. Your things.
There is no more us, but the city reminds us.