I went back to Portland a few days ago to visit my family, and journey to my mom's grave, and see Jen and some of my other friends.
I never realize how much pain being home is going to cause me until I'm there.
Home. What a sick word. What definition of Home causes Portland to be classified as mine? It shouldn't be, by my definition. Rest assured that if I could leave it behind, I would.
There are people who might ask why I go back, and equally as many people who would ask me why I don't come back for good. I know both sides, trust me. Both sides are in my head on repeat the whole time I'm there from the second I pass the high school.
My stomach turns itself into knots, and I tell myself that nothing ever happened.
Life has a funny way of reversing down the driveway in your car and speeding headlong into your past. I explored the John Jay Center with my friend Amanda last month, and this time I spent some time at Hudson Park with Jen. I can tell myself all I want that I've left this little town behind, but here I come in my car again to see it.
Like a train wreck, I can't look away. I look up at the Ritz and think about what life might have been like if I'd started my adulthood correctly, moving out at 18 into the apartment I would otherwise have shared with one of my exes instead and went to school at Ivy Tech through John Jay. Stayed at BK until I finished school, avoiding management. Wrote my first book at 20, started honing my talent instead of wasting almost a god damned decade chasing idiots down the dating drain.
Who knows what might have happened if I'd been thinking clearly before graduation, made good grades, applied to Ball State, gotten out of here?
The town that Wal-mart built, because no one can remember life before it.
Maybe I should have gotten out when I learned that Muncie was only step one toward real life.
But what is real life? Black rimmed glasses and coffee? Instagram photos? What are we, my generation? A whole lost maze of adult children, drifting back into our parents' homes. That's what we are.
Fuck grammar and sentence structure.
I want to feel something other than remorse when I come to Portland.
I want to feel something better than wishing I could erase whole years of my life.
Because knowing that some of the people who used to be my friends want nothing to do with me makes me not want anything to do with anyone. To know that a single mistake spurred two years worth of mistakes spurred whole groups of people to leave me, friends and family and strangers alike... it makes me want to stand on the side of all the main roads and scream until I ruin my throat and blood starts coming up.
I see people I used to know and hang out with and I just keep driving, because what would they have to say to me, or I to them? I've got my writing and my school and my job now, and they've got nothing to say to me still, after four years.
Oh you silly abandoneers.
I tried to make communication with some of you a little over a year ago and was disturbed and disappointed at how angry some of you still were with me.
That's rule number one in Portland: If someone lets you down, don't ever ever EVER let him forget it.
Rule number two: If someone becomes too busy to respond to your every communication, he is a bad person and obviously hates you.
Those are bullshit rules that likely apply to all small towns.
I do have some news to all the gossiping scapegoateers of Portland, flinging themselves from bar to filthy wood-paneled bar and talking about how I'm a terrible breed of human: I realize I've made more mistakes that I can count on both hands and both toes. However, you needn't remind everyone and therefore vicariously me about it.
I wish I could get debt collectors to stop calling my parents asking for me. It's embarrassing. However, I can barely pay the bills I have now. I should call them all and give them my number. If only I had their numbers.
But the main question is still the same. Why do I come back to Portland?
After I've betrayed all of Portland and my entire extended family and the whole world with my avoidist behavior, why do I come back?
The simplest answer is that this is where my Mom lived almost her whole life. When I drive or walk the streets, I feel like I'm tracing her steps. I don't feel so lost when I think of it that way.
You know, I got a lot of criticism for following my mom's wishes to be cremated. I was looked at as a scheming little monster, out to save money any way I could and stick my mom in the ground for cheap. “I don't think she really wanted to be cremated” you said to one another.
I don't think I've ever properly responded to that.
I realize that grief is a funny thing, and it makes people do and say silly things, so I will be kind and considerate and respectful, which is more than I was shown at the time outside of the small circle that consisted of myself, Joe, Lynn and my aunt Joann at the time. I'm setting those people aside, because they were nothing but supportive and strong and wonderful companions at that time.
The rest of you are subject to a bit of a reality check.
Put down your beers and cigarettes and listen to me, because I am not you anymore. I will only say this once.
Mom told me point blank that cremation was how she wanted it. Perhaps she said it because she wanted to save us all a little money, but she did not ever retract that statement, and I was not about to go against her wishes because friends and family could not accept that she had not wanted to be buried whole for the bugs and snakes to eat.
I would also like to point out that I did not pay for her funeral. My aunt Joann did. Joann is one of the kindest, most honest, most beautifully human women and people I have ever known, and she took it upon herself to go from one ATM machine to another, racking up credit card debt so that I would not have to pay Don Spencer's outrageous bill for a cremation and non-ceremony at the grave. She also fronted the bill for the headstone and helped me decide on the details for everything because despite me looking and acting like a real asshole at the time, she and the others in that group knew that I didn't really want to be alive right then, either.
I don't think that people in country towns realize the psychological damage their bar talk does to a 21-year old boy who has just put his mother in the ground. Accusing me of being a cheap dick, and trying to save money on the funeral? You wonder why I visit so few of you.
Resume beer and cigarettes, because that's all you'll ever be.
You wanted a normal relative? What's a normal relative? Someone who doesn't start rumors that I, as your cousin, wanted to fuck you on my mom's grave? Someone who doesn't start a smear campaign about me because they don't like my mom's final wishes? Someone who doesn't carry some god damned grudge against me because I dated someone they didn't like?
I'd like one of those, too.
You're all fired.
I don't think that any of you will ever know the depths to which I sink when I come to Portland. Please, don't expect me to have a jolly old time when I'm there.
That would be selfish and unrealistic.
I'm facing questions right now like: Am I a sociopath? Is it worth continuing another 30 years? Why have I wasted so much of my life?
I don't need your questions, too.