I know I wrote before about how our upcoming move, back home after three years in another city we unexpectedly fell in love with, felt like a breakup. I was wrong.
It’s more like an amputation.
Apparently, without us realizing it, Charleston attached itself to our hearts. What started out with us scared and lonely ended up with us having made a home here. Our first home, or at least our first house to call our own. Our big three years out on our own, us against this big bad medical residency, against loneliness, against fear, against sleep deprivation, thousands of miles from everyone we knew and loved. We grew here, and our hearts grew big enough to hold an entire city. Now, that city must be amputated, as if it were a tumor that had grown in our hearts, rather than a miracle.
My boss, who has always let me know that he thinks I do a great job, has been giving me a hard time about my leaving. He says he’s mad at my husband for taking me away. He’s offered to put a hit out on the people who got the fellowship spots here so Jon could take one (note to the authorities: he’s joking, I swear). He’s asked what he could do to make me stay. While I laugh and play along with the jokes, because that’s the kind of rapport we have, I sometimes feel like screaming, DO YOU THINK I WANT TO LEAVE? DO YOU THINK THIS IS EASY FOR ME? DON’T YOU THINK WE’D STAY HERE IF WE COULD?
I didn’t mean to move here and want to stay. My thought was “All we have to do is survive it for three years and then we can leave.” We didn’t just survive. Though there were times when all we wanted to do was pack up and move home, we ended up thriving here. Now it seems so cruel that just as we put down roots, we’re having to rip them up again. I picture my heartstrings having grown deep into the rich South Carolina soil, now being ripped out violently.
As the move date approaches, I’ve noticed my jaw hurts, from permanent, stressed-out clinching. My neck and shoulders are so tight that my yoga teacher remarks about them in amazement as he helps me into a pose, says I need to get a massage, a long hot bath, a glass of wine, for goodness sake do something about this rock you’re carrying around on your shoulders! I’m tired. I’m easily frustrated and annoyed. It’s just how I felt right after we moved here, during those painful first months of stress and depression and homesickness.
Jon and I take walks together, holding hands. Plotting out ways we could find to return here to this city that has wormed its way inside us, like a beautiful Old South parasite.
It’s not that I’m not overjoyed to be moving back to Little Rock, the place I call home, back closer to friends and family, back to neighborhoods I know like the back of my hand. I am. But this amputation is taking place without anesthesia, long and slow and slicing right into my nerves. Something is being cut out of my heart, even as I know that all too soon a new city will be transplanted where this one used to be. The first incision has been made, and we’re walking around with a gaping would for the next two months, until we receive our transplant. It’s painful.