There was this night in early September 2018 when I just knew.
I’d just come home to Tucson from a month away in Brooklyn that felt like a punch in the gut followed by a sweet caress and a sad farewell. I begged for home those first few weeks and kicked myself for having sublet a room sight unseen in a place I’d never stepped foot in.
You do that at 19 or 22 and no one blinks an eye. You do it at 39 and the mistakes don’t seem precocious or cute anymore. They tend to leave a mark. By the time I’d gotten home, though, I came back with heavier shoulders than the ones that ached with wanderlust a month prior.
Tucson didn’t feel like home anymore. But the thought of picking up and moving terrified me. I felt like I was hurdling toward a decision point that I’d never even set out to make. I didn’t go looking for a midlife crisis. If anything, I’d been weary from searching for youthful resolve for years.
It all came to a head at a Lemon Twigs show in downtown Tucson. The Twigs came to town and 20 people showed. Maybe ten of them got it? Maybe two of us loved it? I’d just seen them two weeks prior play to a packed house in Williamsburg.
They didn’t belong in Tucson and I didn’t belong in Tucson. And I wasn’t doing myself any favors by pretending I had so much to risk in leaving.
I didn’t tell anyone. Before I’d resolved to leave, when people would ask me why I hadn’t moved to NYC, I pretended not to care. Caring too much meant heartbreak and letdown because it was never really going to happen. After I resolved to leave, I kept it pretty much a secret because I didn’t know if I’d flop. It wasn’t insecurity. It was that my mother could turn any aspiration of mine into shit with a few well-placed words and I needed this to work out.
I finally started saying it as though it were a done deal in January. But holding that secret was one of the loneliest things I’ve ever had to do.
Those last months of September through May were just stages of grief cycling over and over. I had to say goodbye to everything that ever felt safe. Every meal I had was potentially the last of its kind. I tried to remember the freckles on friends’ faces and how they smelled. The whole process was grueling. Therapy got really dark. I cried a lot.
My mother did manage to get her say in. In a drunken stupor, covered in snot, with my hand pressed to her face she told me I’d kill myself if I moved to NYC. In my darkest moments here in the city…her words echo in my head and I choose to live just to fucking spite her.
Things didn’t feel right until months of living in Brooklyn. But I got healthcare insurance. I started taking writing classes. I started learning my way around. It wasn’t what I daydreamed living in the city would be. But it was good.
I left behind a lot. Everything nice I had pretty much got lost, stolen or broken. It cost me a lot of money to move here twice. There are times when I feel like I’ve been pummeled with a meat tenderizer. But I’m better for it.
I have health insurance here. I have friends. I don’t feel so alone in my eccentricities. I can tell people to fuck off if I want. I’m not constantly sucked into my parents’ subterfuge. It’s not easy for me here. But it’s not easy for anyone. We all know it. And we’re in it together.
I saw the Lemon Twigs play Elsewhere tonight to another packed house. It was a very loose set. I loved it. It isn’t some giant metaphor for anything. I’m still me. They’re still them. I can love them purely without needing them to be something they’re not. Things can be complex and still have a purity to them.
Everyone I went with was a giant pain in the ass in completely expected ways. John freaked out because they required vaccination cards. I get it. Showing papers is a scary proposition, civil liberties wise. Emily had to be an ironic GenXer with bullshit observations. Jon had to be a square and a downer, checking his phone.
I just wanted to have a good night. And I can’t be myself around this shitty energy. It’s depressing and I’m compensating by drinking and smoking weed. They won’t fix what’s wrong. I’d rather be lonely by myself than lonely with people around. I feel lighter.