If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you take yourself with you wherever you go. Where do you come from when you go, is talking about that whole part of you that’s not really visible, but stubbornly hangs around when you’re somewhere you don’t come from.
It’s that part of you that keeps you going. It’s that secret stash of your favorite chips, a wall overwhelmed with scotch tape and photos, the memorized scent of your grandma’s pipe, the way you breathe shooting hoops. It’s the feeling that hurts real bad when you know what you want most is now a memory.
I suppose you could say you cannot escape what has made you. You can’t go back to second grade and tell that girl you’re sorry for writing mean things on her shirt in sharpie. (I wish I could.) You can’t go back and take a different street home. And you can’t change the way you were born.
Once you go you start to realize that you are what everything has made you to be.
That slight attitude that comes out in the evenings is your aunt talking. The form of your jaw and nose is your father’s. The way you pose for pictures is how your older cousin always posed. Even the man running the corner store has started you on something.
Where do you come from?
I was sitting in a plaza in Xela, Guatemala surrounded by pigeons and watching a small boy sell cotton candy and I tried hard to formulate some answer to that question. I wrote:
I come from an uneven sidewalk, the kind that’s full of kids, street ball, cars that roll around the corner with the bass so low your whole chest vibrates. I come from sweaty child legs that run so fast like the stray dogs. I come from the elderly neighbor lady that rocks on her porch swing all afternoon. And my favorite; I come from evening smells of food sizzling in hot oil.
Today, my response is different.
I come from my home, my family. I come from the sound of bike tires on fine gravel, from the loud, crowded buses that took me to school, from the large, blossomed women that hug you tight and smell like corn, from the flat land west of home, and from the things that frighten me.
Some people write to explain, others to argue. Shoot, I hope you argue, ‘cause there can’t just be one of us spouting off mid-afternoon ideas.