Friday, December 30, 2011

reflex grimacing

Returning home at 26 feels strange and uncomfortable, like you've swam back into the shallow end of the pool and there are flotation devices everywhere and the water suddenly feels too hot. There are reminders all around you of a former life: Airwalks in the closet, photographs of graduations and soccer teams seemingly at every turn, a "Little Miss Sunshine" ad ripped out from a magazine affixed to your bedroom wall (the bright yellow now a muted brown). It's suffocating.

Within hours, though, the rhythms begin to return. You share a glance with your mom as your dad launches into an overzealous defense of his latest favorite TV procedural. Your brother complains about having to sit in the middle in the back seat of the car ("Don't dwell in the sorrow," you say; he responds, "I don't even know what that means, but I know that's advice you've never taken.") You march into the living room to complain about the internet being slow and end up sitting down and eating 17 crackers and watching a half-hour of a football game and forgetting why you entered the room in the first place. You still feel like an impostor - like you're playing yourself in a play, kind of - but it all, at least, starts to feel familiar.

When it's time to leave, you pack up your stuff quickly (you never bothered taking your clothes out of the suitcase). Before your mom drives you to the train station, she asks if you want to take some bagels with you; you respond that you don't need them - "I'm going to go shopping when I get home" - and you look away from her immediately. You wonder if you'll ever stop reflex grimacing when you refer to your New York City apartment as "home" in her presence, and if you can really be considered an "adult," whatever that means, until you do.