I am from where I live. I live where I’m from.
These are obvious facts. I’ve been here at Yale, intermittently, for about a year. If I had painted the soles of my shoes early September 2009, I’d have left long coils of slithering footprints in recurrent patterns, thicker along daily routes to yawning classes and awakening courtyards. I used to leave these same tracks on New York pavement, skittering steps in Harlem and slow shuffles along the Hudson River, but I am no longer a “New Yorker.” In this present, I am a pocket of New Haven breath.
We are all townies for today — and perhaps, for tomorrow. We take censuses and check boxes, so statistically speaking, that’s a duh. But just look at yourself when you get up in the morning. You are settled, sunken, pockmarked. You have red eyes from nightly exploit(ation)s. Your tongue is an unripe cotton field that emits ancient traces of kung pao chicken or, perhaps even preferably, spicy tofu. You wake up and sleep and wake up and sleep in concentric circles, creating a whirlwind of a year. Realize this: right now, you are a typical New Haven citizen who drags feet around stuffy corners and puffs on roachy cigarettes. Or maybe that’s just me.
Yet, we are only worldly in transit. Those lucky few who take their gasping weekend trips to my former New York City, who ache for my H&H Bagels, who perturb my pigeons, who sip up my sidewalks, who inundate their lives with tepid travel, are momentary nomads.
But where do these trainhoppers rest? Yale. Now, home. Look how quickly we shift our centers, our foci. Freshmen arrive and untangle webs of years, years of acne and tartar and halitosis, of sex behind the football stands and saxophone in local bands. These years of memory — of unfiltered immaturity, greasy and frabjous — how easily we slip them under overcoats and paste smiles across our faces. How easily a new location grants us a new vocation.
Really, we have no “hometown” and never will.
We are youthful. Our blood courses wherever a new canal is built. So why do we bother remarking on history, on establishing irrelevant past identities? Why do we insist on petty introductions — on dead fish handshakes and awkward street glances — on reviving an expired past? Our hometowns are as shaky as our trust of each other. Our hometowns, for example, can be swept into disaster by the bittersweet brooms of flash floods; just watch “2012.” So when we say hometowns, we don’t really mean the physical shell of a neighborhood, the ash and the cement and the brick. We mean our social network. We mean wherever we feel the most entangled, wherever our breath has weight. And where else, for now, does our breath spread itself across the floor like a yawning cat but here? Where else do we fill up wood-paneled rooms with our debate spit? Certainly not in past lives, not in hallways lined with linoleum and frigid lockers. But here in clouds of ivy, amongst chiseled stone. We’re only here, really, to partake in an orgy of rhetoric.
Thus, I am in the embrace of your beautiful mouths. I live where I am.
Today, I’m from you.