This is a “Guest Letter” written by my friend, Megan, who leaves Chicago tomorrow for the Texas heartlands. Megan and I met through a fitness (cough, semi-cult) group here in Chicagoland called November Project. In the time I’ve known her, she’s run marathons in superhero costumes, given fierce hugs, and even listened to some of my rambling stories and ideas.
This idea in particular– writing a Guest Letter– was prompted by a post-happy hour sushi eating session in which both of us wound up gushing:
WOW MOVING AND LEAVING PLACES AND PEOPLE REALLY SUCKS.
AND IS ACTUALLY SO SO SO HARD.
The moonlight on the bayou
A Creole tune that fills the air
I dream about magnolias in bloom
And I’m wishin’ I was there.
“Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans,”
As I look out over my friends’ backyard, the moon floats over the bayou.
The air feels heady.
And seemingly everyone I could’ve ever wished into existence is standing, right there, amidst the grass and the crawfish boil tables and the twinkling lights in front of me.
Two weeks ago, I returned to New Orleans for a whirlwind weekend of running and parades and naps by the bayou and reconnecting with friends. On the last day, I returned to the Bayou and found several new letters and an empty notebook (!). Here is the letter I left in the notebook:
Dear Bridge (& by extension, Valley Green),
I’m not really sure when I’ll see you next– throughout 2018, I’ve had the privilege of coming back here countless times for weddings and races and high fives and hugs.
But as for 2019, on verra.
We shall see.
There are more elaborate, more poetic, more profound ways of putting all of this but right now, I just want to write everything IN ALL CAPS:
BECAUSE I AM HOME AND GET TO EAT FLAKY PASTRIES AND HUG MY FRIENDS AND DRINK MIMOSAS ON PLAYGROUNDS AND PLAY SHARKS AND MINNOWS WITH HUNDREDS OF TINY HUMANS AND SIT NEXT TO THE BAYOU AND JUMP OUT FROM BEHIND DOORS AND SHRIEK WITH DELIGHT AT SEEING ALL OF THESE PEOPLE WHOM I HAVE MISSED SO SO MUCH AND Y’ALL!! I AM HOME.
Weird happy hand dances 4 dayz.
Yesterday was one of those days where I missed New Orleans more than most.
It doesn’t happen as often anymore– not pangs of heart-pulls. Not moments of dizziness.
Just random moments that seem to pop up out of thin air and make me miss the tiny things:
It is somewhat of a weird miracle how memories resurface.
How they are remembered, retold, rehashed.
How biking or walking or running or sitting in one place can have the kind of magic that lures and pulls you back to another time, another place, another person— a glimmer of Orion’s belt, the snap of a wine cork, a faint whiff of toasted hazelnut.
In French and Creole cultures, this kind of remembrance encapsulates the magic of déjà-vu— the sense that what you are experiencing au présent, you have already experienced au passé.
The sense that you are living in this shadowy yet glimmering place between past and present.
Today marks my one month “move-iversary” to Chicago.
As in, one month ago, I unloaded all of my books and tchotchkes and ate more pizza than my body could handle to call Chicago “home.”
Or whatever “home” really means these days.
I have been thinking a lot about what this means and how to celebrate this– one month of making new friends! One month of attempting to understand public trans! One month of reading and talking and listening and reading some more!
But this has also made me acutely aware of how much work and understanding I still need to do to really–truly– call Chicago home.
Made me realize how much of this city I don’t know, don’t understand.
“So when do you think you’re going to start missing New Orleans?”
We’re in the car, riding on a high of McDonald’s french fries and almost 900 hours of summer camp. The music is pulsing, reverberating, through the bones of the car. Mississippi pine trees go by in a blur, the sun as well. My fingers tap against the window, feet slung up onto the dashboard, head bopping from side to side. I’m humming along absentmindedly to some summer anthem, making up words, picking at my split-ends, dotting mosquito bites with my fingernails.