are you moving back?


In Lagos, at the end of each conversation comes the question: So you've moved back?
No, I reply. I'm just here for a few weeks (or months, or through Christmas).
Oh, I see, they reply, eyes glazing over.

Then the conversation stops as though there is nothing really left to say, no reason, as I will not be there long enough to make the saying relevant, the connection meaningful. I am not here and not there, but rather in a purgatory that is not really a place. I would like to be able to say, yes, I have moved back, or no, I will not, but cannot say either with any conviction. Instead, I respond, I am thinking about it, with the close-lipped, tense smile of someone who is stuck.

I have not really lived in New York for years. I am here physically, yes, but not alive. I am working and going to the gym and buying groceries and hanging out. After spending several years storing my belongings and living out of suitcases (to save money, I think), I now live in my own apartment with a giant closet in which I hang the most beautiful clothes. I have a lovely living room and kitchen in which I sometimes entertain friends. There is always music and laughter and joy.

Yet it is often with great reluctance that I return here from Lagos or most anywhere else I visit. Places where people do not live such regimented lives, packing themselves into crowded subways and yet trying not to see or speak to one another. I am aware that I do not have many of the things I would like to have in my life--like stable employment and a family. I do not know if New York has anything to do with that, or if it is just me. Sometimes I cry when I get back here, although I do not know exactly why. Maybe the tears come from feeling like a ghost--here in flesh, yet somewhere (anywhere?) else in spirit. Or maybe I am just lost.

But it is Brooklyn for now. I have been back over a week and still my suitcases lie on the floor, clothes spilling out like vomit. I do not know whether to hang them up or to simply stare, as I do, wondering if I should zip the bags up again and leave. I think if I did New York would not miss me at all. It is a quandary. --AL.

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