I think about moving. Leaving DC. Escape. Getting away from the rush, the angry people, the crippled commuters, the twisted women, the broken souls. I weigh my options for relocation. Where do I see myself? If I give myself over to fantasy, then the answer is easy. I want to be in Brampton in the north of England. I want a townhouse in Brasov, Romania. I want to live in a seaside apartment in Puerto de Santa Maria in Spain.
But that is just fantasy. It’s a sort of sea-change that won’t happen unless I’m actually skilled in something, or loaded to the gills with money. My relocation plans must be more grounded… And, so, thank god for the occasional voice of wisdom from my old college friend James.
James and I go back to the early 90’s. I don’t know if either of us had learned anything since then but, when in doubt, and when in fear, he was there. I suppose that’s what friends are all about.
My 36 years on this planet have been marked by pain, horror, disappointment, and anger. I blame it on the American attitude. I blame it on ex-friends, ex-lovers, supervisors, co-workers, commuters… I say it’s they who have sickened me. It’s they who have poisoned my soul. Who have turned me from my path.
As my debts are slowly paid off, and as I again see the light at the end of the tunnel and the chance for financial freedom, my mind starts to race. I can leave this place. I can restart my life. I can do anything I want.
It’s not just financial freedom I work for. It’s total freedom. I’ve worked hard, I’ve scrimped and saved, I’ve sacrificed, and, now, I’m only $19,000 away from telling everyone to fucking go to hell. You’ve all betrayed me. You’ve all used me and hurt me and led me on and robbed me and cheated me. All because I’m a fucking nice guy.
I really do blame America. I deny this country. I regret every moment I’m here. So I dream of moving overseas. And it’s James who drags me back from the sky.
“This is America, Nacho.” He says after ten beers and several shots of gin. “This is who we are. You think you can run from it? Bury yourself in a soccer game on TV in some British pub? Lose yourself atop a turret of some Spanish castle? Run your hands along an ancient fortification in Romania and call to mind long dead empires? Stand on a rocky Scottish seashore, trapped in your own dreaming head?”
“It’s not about that,” I try to argue. “It’s about belonging…”
“Belonging? What the fuck are you talking about? You were born in the capitol of this empire. In this era. Here and now. You’re not some old soul, some misplaced creature. You are an American, your family has been here since the 1600’s. You are an alien in any other land. You cannot turn from your heritage. You can’t excuse it, you can’t avoid it… You can’t hyphenate it. It’s just American. No matter where you came from originally, that’s who you are today. This is where you belong.”
He stood up, poured gin into his empty glass of beer and leaned towards me, “We should be proud of it. We shouldn’t seek to qualify who we are. ‘Scottish-American,’ ‘Irish-American,’ ‘Chinese-American.’ ‘African-American,’ whatever the fuck that means. I think that’s nothing more than a euphemism for nigger. Native American is redskin. Barbarian. We are all native Americans.
“The ‘hyphenated’ American is not a way to identify our heritage or culture. It’s simply an affectation created by racists, murderers, and fascists. We all embrace it because we’re uneducated and we do as we’re told. We all accept the idea that we can and should stand apart. We think the Irish and Italian ghettos of the early 20th century, as portrayed in Hollywood, are romantic. We think that there is division in America. And that we should be proud of it. But qualifying yourself as, say, an ‘Irish-American’ family, is no better than just going out there and lynching a nigger, shooting an indian, kicking a fag to death. It’s passive, but just as evil. Just as wrong.”
“You believe that?” I asked him.
He grinned, drank, raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “What can I say? That’s also America. Believe what you will. But when it comes time for you to run, don’t do so blindly. There are places where you belong, and they exist not because you adopt them or emulate them, but because they are, simply, where you belong.”
“Follow my heart?”
James nodded. “Yes. Always.”
“No matter the cost?”
“What cost is there? Life or death. And, if death, then thank god. That means it’ll all be over and you can relax.”
“Amen to that.”