Ten years ago:

I spent three nights in a row hanging around my brother's house. I realized that I only had a few more days left where I would be able to see them, and that this was probably the closest our lives would ever become. My sister-in-law told me as much, saying that it was going to be "weird" not having me around anymore. They stuffed me full of food, knowing that I would eventually visit my parents once I moved back, and they didn't want to be accused of letting me starve under their watch. We watched TV for a while until I noticed I was starting to wear out my welcome. I would walk the four blocks back wondering if moving back was really the best idea.

My brother is eight years older than I am, so our childhood together was short and mainly featured him in the role of babysitter. I must have been a pain in his ass in high school: the elementary school kid that always wanted to pal around on his teenage adventures. How he refrained for treating me with appropriate cruelty is a mystery. He want off to college when I was in fifth grade, and didn't take it very well at all: I was left behind in that house without any layer of defense between myself and my parents. During my time in Holland we had discovered each other as actual people, and leaving that behind was something that made me hesitate.

I hated the doubt that my decision had put within me. I hated the feelings of responsibility I had created within myself simply by being in a place and talking with people. I hated that there was no reset button in case I made a bad decision. Then I would sleep all of those doubts off, and feel much better in the morning. I would then know then that I had to get back to "real life" in New York. I would feel the futility of being hundreds of miles away from my friends. I would think of my time in Michigan akin to a stay in the hospital, and now that I was feeling better it was time to be released.

I didn't know which feeling was absolutely true, and took my cues from whichever was the prevailing emotion. When I talked to anyone about this, it must have seemed like I was taking the emotional lever and yanking it back and forth as hard as I could. But I suppose these conflicting feelings were expected. I was scared that I was making a bad decision, and that I would only know for sure when it became too late to change course.



The kids in Cortland, my former and soon to be roommates, had successfully moved into to the new apartment in Syracuse. They tried to describe it over the phone, but really was one of those shitty apartments that needed to be viewed in order to be fully appreciated: more than 2000 square feet of sheer ghetto goodness. There were a few repairs that they were able to trade to the landlord in lieu of rent, so they spent their time split between home repair and looking for work.

Before they were fully employed, they decided to make my life less complicated: they hopped in the car and drove to my apartment to pick up my stuff.

I was at my brother's house when they made this decision. I found out they were coming when suddenly the phone was for me, and I was spitting directions out to them. I ran home to frantically start shoving the rest of my belongings into boxes while they dodged semis on the QEW in the middle of the night. They did not actually arrive until five in the morning, all blurry eyed and road sick. I took them to the Denny's on 24th upon their arrival, just to put something into their stomachs before they finally collapsed.

I had not seen them in eight months, and I found that laying eyes on them nearly put me in tears. We sat and ate, but the entire time I was gushing at them while they politely didn't fall asleep right there at the table. Between my detraction and their delirium, we truly thought we were hallucinating when some guy walked by the front window leading two camels.

"Um, is there actually a guy with a camel out there?
Blinking. "I know there shouldn't be, but yes there absolutely is."
"Well, this trip is going well so far."

Then they passed out in various places around the apartment, and I want off to work for an excruciating eight hours. For the next two days I went to work while the kids played around in Holland and finished throwing my belongings into boxes. They would come and scoop me up at the mall after work, and we would head out to get dinner before passing out for another night.

We spent the morning before they left trying to cram everything into the car, taking up the trunk and the entire back seat of that poor Sable. I probably should have thrown away more of my things, but there came a point where it was more time efficient to simply toss everything in the back of the car, and sort it out once I arrived in Syracuse. Then the kids left, and I went back upstairs into an apartment that only had a bed, a sleeping bag, a bunch of cleaning supplies, and an army duffel full of my incidentals.

It was going to be a weird week.


Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
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is one child's discovery of a missing

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