See, baby, I’m a city girl born and raised. Got a skyscraper for a body and a windowpane for a heart. My ribs are pavements that too many people have walked all over just so they can get where they want to. This city is the only place I’ve ever known so I wonder if this town is really home. This town tucked away in some corner of the world, this town where time slows down, this town where nothing ever moves.
When they ask me to describe it, i tell ’em, my hometown sounds like a mouthful of contradictions.
My hometown got heat of hell. Got eyes like a sinner. Watching your family peeling your cousin away from the boy he loves and keeping its mouth shut. This static town is it’s own idea of purgatory.
(But my hometown got glow of heaven. Got heart of Saint. Temples at every corner and blessing falling from the trees.)
The streets are always empty.
(But the people here never really learnt what the word empty means.)
This is a place where everyone is always lost
(but no one can ever be lost.)
The sky rips itself open in its sorrow. It always raining sadness.
(but my hometown is a study in the art of laughing too hard.)
I don’t know what to make of this.
(but I also do, oh god, I do.)
When they ask me what it is that makes me drive 20 hours just to catch a glimpse of this town that no one’s heard of, I tell ’em every single story.
The people here, they’re always watching the sunset. They say, city girl, the sun sets in the city faster. City girl, the sun runs from the blinding city lights and comes on vacation here. Here, the sun doesn’t drown in the horizon, it melts. Maybe it’s the sunlight or the sunflower fields but here is where you really feel warm; here is where you feel that you’re really walking in the right direction.
There was this dog with a missing tail and he chased me down the street. Everyone cursed that damn dog everyday. But I swear when he got sick, everyone prayed for him. Everyone came out and cried. Everyone stroked his mud soaked fur without thinking of anything else.
Your grandmother tells you stories of her parents. She says, “5 years before my daddy died, my parents stopped talking. They weren’t in different places, oh no, but they still had so much distance in between ’em it would probably take you forever to run through it. The day after daddy died, mumma left too. I was right next to her. And to this day, I swear, I heard her say, “I’m coming, darling. I’m coming.” The women in this family never learnt to unlove.” She half-laughs, half-sighs. I think she looked at me and prayed that this goddamn curse skipped a generation. I don’t have the heart to tell her that it hasn’t.
The river is dizzy from all the pebbles skipped on it. The night you jumped into it with your brother’s best friend still makes your lungs fill with freshwater, and your heart with memories. This is the river that baptized you in the religion of this town. It dipped you in holy and brought you to your own Elysium. You never felt more safe than you did sitting on that river bed. You never felt more lovely than you did there.
When they ask me why I barely remember my hometown, say there is dust on things I never thought there would be; like the jukebox my uncle used to fix every Monday and then dance along to, like the candles in front of the temple, like the grandfather clock, like my grandfather’s clock.
When they ask me why hometown barely remembers me, say “I am no longer that soft girl. I are now a blood lipped, cement filled, fire-burning girl. My edges are sharper and I don’t resemble anything that could possibly be golden enough to have ever lived here.
My hometown don’t got no sea-side view; no soft sound of waves, no sand between your toes, no salt on your tongue. But it’s got the gentle view; got gravel till your ankles, got constant hum of children flying kites, got sugar tasting raindrops on your tongue.
See, baby I’m a city girl born and raised. I’ve got pilot lights for eyes and my heart’s always trapped in the barbed wire. This town’s got dandelion kisses and smooth winds and buses that don’t seem to go anywhere, but I love it. I love it, top to bottom. From the abandoned rose gardens to every broken wooden staircase. The city may have my heart, but this town’s got my soul.
When I leave, I try to match my heartbeat to the wind on the roof at 1am. Try to remember what the world looked like from the bottom of the river. So I etched the colour of the purple glow of the streetlights onto my skin. So I tried turning my body into a compass, with a heart that only points here.
So I realised it always was.