There are times when I feel a certain fondness for my hometown even though I’ve been dreaming of leaving it for as long as I remember. Now I’m about to leave it again, for the umpteenth time.
Nostalgia doesn’t colour my vision. I see the town for what it is: a place without hope. An anthill built in a poorly chosen location; the ants doomed to fight for survival every waking moment, leaving their lives unlived, dreams undreamt.
The line between knowing a place through and through and being fond of a place can be blurry, though.
I was on a bus the other day, travelling quite a long distance. I had no need to check the bus number and the bus stop it would leave from, nor the time of departure. I just came to the right place at the right time and boarded the right bus. Familiarity with a place is measured by the number of things we can take for granted.
The bus didn’t smell very nice, and the seat upholstery was a very unappealing colour. It had always smelled like that. The upholstery had always been that colour. I was reassured. Two little old ladies sitting across from me were chatting about what they would buy at the weekly farmer’s market. They spoke with the lilt that I’d unlearnt at school and no longer would be able to reproduce. I knew which bus stop they’d be getting off.
The map of my hometown is stored in my memory, and I take it with me wherever I go. When I return, I can whip it out from some dusty nook in my brain and use it again. Few things change while I’m away. Perhaps there’ll be fewer little old ladies speaking with that familiar lilt next time I come back, but I might not stay long enough to notice before I leave again.
This town is made for leaving, not for living.