You were eighteen when you first came out and left home and you have been running away ever since. Forget the sneakers, running is more about that feeling of constant motion. How you have refused to hold onto a warm body, let alone a city, for longer than a few months so that it cannot swallow you whole. Your parents always taught you to chew with your mouth closed anyways. Never let them reveal the parts you choose to let inside. How you rely on their destruction.
Which means that home has been something you have been trying to shed from you along the way. That place where you grew up hating yourself because you weren’t as beautiful as all of the girls they kissed, weren’t as white as all of the boys who mispronounced your last name, asked you to edit their papers, and voted you most environmentally conscious in high school because you had a big beard and even bigger angst and in this small town all cultures of dissent taste the same anyways. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.
Write it on your arms “I A M M O R E T H A N M Y B O D Y” in permanent marker the type that will not rub out until at least three showers like the X’s on your wrists that night you snuck into the punk band show in tenth grade and sublet your loneliness for rebellion and it was a comfortable arrangement that worked out for both parties.
Write it on your tongue “I A M M O R E T H A N T H I S S M A L L T O W N” hope that over time the saliva will rub out the hick, the south, the plaque on the back of your teeth. (I am tired of running. I am tired of running.)
Come out when you are 18 scream it outside at that open skies of stars that blanket highway 6 “I A M M O R E T H A N T H I S S M A L L T O W N” scream it as loud as you can because it feels rebellious because it ran out of your tongue before you even thought about it.
In second grade you started collecting erasers– the ones that you could get for 25 or 50 cents that you found in the couch before going to school. How you loved their elegance; how you rely on their destruction. How fitting it is that they disappear when they work too well. (You have not stopped collecting erasers but now you call them ‘men’ for short).
You are twenty-two now which means that you are old enough to have been invited to a high school reunion but too young for your parents to not ask you where you are going when you step out the door. And it has not only been five years but also two oceans, several apartment deposits, maybe a million heart beats, and over 400 new phone numbers on your phone which means that if you died in this moment and they performed an autopsy they would find new rings etched in your bones all over the blotchy remnants of erasers and still proclaim you “naïve.” You are back home in that town that you have spent your life running away from and it feels all too familiar – our lives that circle that you have been running around our childhood bedrooms, that place we learned our names and apologies (interchangeably).
You keep all of the books you’ve read in the study at the front of the house. In tenth grade you read this play called “OUR TOWN” and you hated it at the time and didn’t have the postmodern jargon to tear it to pieces so you recycled words from the thesaurus in your essay like PHLEGMATIC and DIDACTIC but what you meant to say was that it didn’t have the same drama, the same urgency, the same constant motion as LORD OF THE FLIES. There is a line from the play that you still remember because you can still see the faint traces underneath the eraser: “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME.”
THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
And you are lying on the same sheets, under the same sky, eating the same food, on the same street you skinned your knees and kissed your first girl and did your first SAT practice exam with the same brown body trying to erase itself again. So you call all of the same old friends and they pick you up in the same cars and drive you to the same houses and the same coffee shops and you talk about the same things. And you dream of pausing time and taking out your eraser and writing B O R I N G on the entire scene, tearing the country music at the seams, using your new smart phone to find the same old punk shows, scream “I A M M O R E T H A N T H I S S M A L L T O W N.” REMEMBER? (I am more than this small town…remember?)
But on the drive home you play that same death cab for cutie song and it makes you feel the same sadness and you cry the same way you used to and you realize that every feeling since has been the descendent of that same old loneliness substituted for rebellion that same tired story of erasing child and becoming adult and erasing adult and becoming ??? of existing in a world where we are taught that true happiness lies somehow outside of us so we COME OUT in search of it in different cities and bodies, so we run and run and run and run and run…
Don’t forget that when you were thirteen and visiting new york city you saw two men kiss each other every time before they walked across the street. One of them was brown just like you except the other one was white and they were both handsome in the way that you thought new yorkers could only be handsome – the sunglasses, the fitted clothing, the posture if it all. And you thought it was the most captivating thing you had ever seen in the world so you froze time used your eraser to tear apart the pixels and write “WANT” in a font less bold than Helvetica but still just as colloquial. You almost wanted the car to crash into them because it would have been a successfully tragic love story off of the movie screens because it would have meant that you could take their place. Don’t forget how you ran away from this small town from this small body to become that. How you took a photo posted it on your wall and you put it on every apartment you’ve lived in since call it HOME call it I A M M O R E T H A N T H I S B O D Y.
Which means that your entire life you have not actually been able to see walking lungs around you because you have been running so fast that they just seem like a blur which allows you to get away with calling them dreams. Which means that you never have been able to view the honesty of a lover, a friend, a city too busy romanticizing it saying M A K E M E M O R E T H A N M Y B O D Y, saying ERASE ME. Too busy throwing anchors behind you and pulling the weight of the world behind you as you run and you kind of liked it because it pulled at your skin, made the sharpie even fainter, how your happiness has always relied on destruction, how your love has always relied on destruction. How we spend our entire lives in search of something greater than our home towns but “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME” that the entire world, be it new york city, be it london, be it the electric pulse of the club, the fever pitch of a rush hour subway, is totally and utterly boring (and that is beautiful amen) is repulsive and sterile and useless (and that is beautiful amen) is unforgiving, stale, and trite (and that is beautiful amen) because it is screaming at you as you run away saying I AM NOTHING just like where you came from and where you are going which means that COMING OUT was a lie just like the Apple Maps directions which lead you into an ocean when you typed “HOME.”
So maybe you should tear up that photo on your wall, so maybe you should burn all the erasers, so maybe you should crawl back into bed say I AM SORRY for leaving you say DO NOT COME OUT COME HOME TO ME HERE _______ (insert a photo of your ugly, hairy, brown, queer, desperate body). That destination that is not a city, or a body, or a dream, or a politic, or a future.
That feeling deep inside a chest that is still bleeding.
The remnants of an eraser.
The constant pulse of their silence.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
this is original work by alok vaid-menon please consider supporting the artist