Where I come from, people move like schools of fish. We’ve never been known for cooperation or for being particularly considerate, but we’re attuned to the slightest adjustments in body language. Ready to alter our direction by the half inch that evades disaster. We are millions lodged together on this tiny island walking in each other’s footsteps without ever crossing paths or bumping into one another - mostly. We are as unique as individuals get, in a world made of differences, but our hive mind kicks into gear the longer we have been here. We intuit one another’s pace and path, but if you asked us whether we were paying attention to this, we wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
Where I come from, nobody listens to one another. We act as if we cannot hear, maybe we have headphones in, maybe we have decided to tune out the chaos for sanity’s sake, maybe we are playing a scenario over in our heads, and you can expect us not to turn if we hear a loud, sudden noise. We wouldn’t want to give away that we have been listening, showing a sign of sharing this place that we walk around as individuals formed into one.
Where I come from, we are the bees that make this place hum. We buzz with energy, palpable to anyone who dares enter. The energy is undeniable though it is hardly definable. It is too much a combination of everyone’s determination to distill into one direction. It is the infinite possibility, the impossible dream, the aroma of utter despair mingled with desperate hope. It is the limitlessness of desire expanding in every direction; it is the universe itself. It goes on forever, it can go anywhere; you must be prepared for anything here.
Where I come from, people shine. It feels as if I have something in my eye, for all the ways I have to twist and turn to avoid the glare. They dance and sing and gather together in joy. This is a lie. For where I come from, people cry in the privacy of their own homes. People hide this part of themselves in favor of wearing a mask in public. We paint our faces pretty and dress in our nicest clothes, hoping no one will notice what goes on behind closed doors. We pray in secret for our unmet desires and act in public like we have everything we could have possibly dreamed. We put on shows for one another that we may each feel that the other has what we desire most: the want for nothing. And go around trying to forget the difference between performance and reality, in a city full of artists.
I have always been from here, though I haven’t always been here. I tried to escape it once before. The glare got in my eyes and I missed some essential details. I got lost in the glory of it all, in the mask I wore, and I couldn’t separate it from my face. In fact, after I fell from my tall height, I was sure my mask fused to my face. I became both the drama masks in one: the joyful one and the sad one. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t find what used to be under the mask. I was sure it was gone. So, I flew away. To another land, to a place where other people came from. I thought maybe there, I could find whatever was supposed to be under the mask. That maybe I did not come from the other place at all, maybe I was never there, maybe I never grew up there, maybe I was barely a person yet at all. Maybe I could erase every part of me that had that adhesive mask tied to it and let it sink to the bottom of the sea as I was flying above it.
Maybe I come from no where. Maybe I know no place. I am just another wanderer, found after being lost at sea without a shred of intact memory. I come from here! This place, wherever we are, whatever land, whatever people. Do I not? Who can say otherwise? Maybe I have always come from this new place. Indeed, most of the remnant thoughts I have apply to all people, and where do I come from if not from people? Surely if I fight long enough, try hard enough, someone will let me in to this new place. I can become accepted and in doing so, I can vow to forget the shreds of memory I have trailing behind me. No one has to know, I have no qualms about letting go of the beautiful yet sad place where I used to come from.
I can make all the promises in the world until you feel comfortable, until I feel comfortable, that I am here for good. That I do not crave the old place where I used to come from. That is for them, those people - not us. We would don’t want such a life, we would never live in such a place, we are of here and of here only. Please don’t push me away, in fear that I’ll go back to there. There was not good for me. There I was anonymous. There I lost myself to the crowds. I was overlooked and I got hurt. All my people watching over me and still I was forgotten; I was able to fall so much further down than I thought possible. I was abandoned, and so who wouldn’t understand that I would not go back there? Who would doubt my resolve?
I made these promises and more. I promised myself I could not be from a place so wrought with fault, so ripped from safety, so isolating, so full of disguise. I knew with every fiber of my being that I would not return to such a place, so everyone could relax and trust that I was here to stay. I built new roots and I dug deep taproots into the earth. I tried to never put another mask on again, walking finally to freedom. But, of course, that became its own mask.
My land called out to me. My land tried to make amends. My people tried to make amends. Where I came from asked that I come back. I could admit that I had adhered another mask to my face, but this time I didn’t want to remove it. This one was more intentional. It seemed inevitable that I would continue adding mask after mask to my face, so why not accept this one and move on from here? Why not stay lost, separate from my home, away from the pain of before? But, it followed me. Running from it made it stronger and louder in my heart. My roots began to dry up one by one, ebbing me back towards the place the one lost at sea longed to call home. One root then another pulled itself from the ground, pushing me out to sea again, nudging me out of the nest I had created. Pushing me out, refusing to abide by these new rules that fit along with my new performance. A nest is meant to be temporary, and I got to rebuild my nest and burrow and hibernate in it twice over. But migration was calling, and I had to answer.