This is the place I live. Some mornings, I wake up and for just one delicious second or two, I forget. Then it comes washing back over me and afterwards, all the day long, I drag a heavy backpack full of thoughts about where I am around with me—everywhere I go. As a permanent resident, I have to. There are many things that need to be done in order to ensure my continued stay. Most of them aren’t pleasant, but for me, leaving seems way worse than sticking around.
Some people live here alongside me, just as I do—as permanent residents; some people are just stopping through and everyone else are in this place, but not of it. I don’t know too many locals like myself. Probably busy with their backpacks, like I am. The people who are just visiting can be found everywhere—on the covers of checkout line magazines, especially. (Seems like a large number of them are reality show stars, doesn’t it?) The ones who are visiting just love to tell people about their journey here. They talk a lot about bravery and re-ordered priorities. I know their stay in this place is no fun —however short it may be—but they get to leave and never come back and that is something special. Let me tell you.
Then there’s the rest. They’re here around us visitors and lifers but they’re neither. They imagine they might understand what it’s like here, because they all know someone who has stopped by or lived or died where I live so they think they know something, but they don’t, really.
The longer I live here, I find these people harder and harder to understand—as if a slow-growing language barrier has developed. Sort of like my neighborhood is showing the first signs of gentrification. There’s all these cool people around and someone opened a rad cheese shop and it’s exciting until the realization comes that the cheese is out of the budget and there’s nothing in common with any of these people around who are wealthy beyond measure in ways I am not. More and more frequently I am finding myself resenting them for their carefree lifestyles and want to scream, “GTFO away from me unless you’d like to pick up this heavy-ass back pack for a while.” Unfortunately, because of that language barrier I mentioned before, what they hear me say is, “Tell me about that interesting show/book/article you watched/read about my town and how an obscure scientist is making huge strides in developing a Nairobian bean paste which when injected daily, might one day in the distant future make this place an abandoned ghost town full of tumbleweeds.” and they smile with relief and shove another hefty item into my bulging backpack so they are hands-free to go about eating the expensive, delicious cheese that is just out of my reach.
I imagine myself sitting on a bench on the dusty road that runs through this place. My permanent residence. A bus rolls up and belches out a new batch to wander the town. They all disembark with game faces on. Some look tough, resolved. Some laugh, some cry. Who will stay, who will go? Why them and not others? How do I keep my heart and communication lines open? How do I make the most of my life here as permanent resident? How do I let go of this ridiculously heavy backpack? Can I please taste some of that cheese?