by Chelsea Fagan
Stay up late one night scrolling through pictures of your time back there, looking at each one for five, ten minutes at a time, trying as hard as you possibly can to remember every last detail. Feel your whole body ache as you think of the way the food smelled in the busy streets, the way the wind blew just enough to kiss the hem of your shirt, the way the people around you seemed to fold in comfortably like a warm blanket. Remember feeling at home, even if you weren’t.
See other people who are getting to take a trip to your beloved city, and leave a comment along the lines of “soo jealous.” Say it in that flippant, internet-y, not-actually-that-jealous way, but be profoundly envious of how lucky they are to be going. Feel briefly that they don’t appreciate getting to go to this wonderful place, that they can’t possibly know all of those tucked-away little restaurants or side streets with the beautiful painted shutters on the windows, and wish that you could make them understand how truly lucky they are. Want not so much to take the trip from them as to go along with them, to stow yourself away in a suitcase in the undercarriage of the plane and take them everywhere you fell in love with during your time there, to make them see the city through your eyes.
Satiate yourself with reading all about your city in your spare time, searching always for new pictures and looking at old haunts on Google Street View, remembering the way the leaves shook on the trees in late September. Realize that, with less and less irony, you are starting to really consider this place Your City. On some level, you feel that you have a connection with it that you can’t fully explain, that exists in the way the soles of your shoes met the pavement on the long walks you took at night, just you and the empty alleyways. Know that it’s ridiculous to consider yourself the owner of an entity as big and as democratic as a city itself, but be nonetheless defensive — as a mother or best friend might be — when you hear anyone speak negatively of it.
Long to be the person you were again when you were there, to walk the streets with the same confidence and eagerness, to stay out drinking wine and having good conversation, eating too much and sleeping in late. Remember the way you used to take in pleasure more viscerally, more methodically, finding it imperative that things taste good and feel good, that everything be a feast for the senses. Feel rushed where you are now, and deeply miss the time when you were so much more open to change, excited and ready to meet anything that wanted to meet you. Know that you were technically the same person when back in your city, but know also (on some deeper level) that you were a better version of it.
Spend a lot of time — too much time — looking at tickets online to go back as soon as possible. Think constantly about all the things you could be doing, the things you are missing out on, the people who are growing and changing and having nights out without you. Feel guilty for how much you think about this other place, as though you are cheating on your current city with a beautiful former one that could never be competed with. Save up your money as much as possible, always thinking of the moment the plane will land and you will be back in the right zip code, where you can take off the tedium and discomfort of your daily life the way one might an itchy wool sweater. Long to walk those same streets again, to smell the morning air right before everyone wakes up, the one that is so crisp you feel you could break off a piece of it. Count down the days until you can really be back there.
Know that, sooner or later, you will have to go back. Imagine the apartment you’ll have, in that perfect city square, with the wood floors and the high ceilings that you imagine will make the rest of your life so much better. Remind yourself that problems exist everywhere, even in your perfect city, but be much more ready to face them in the right geographic location. For now, though, miss your city so much it hurts — romanticize it until you see it almost entirely in warm shades of pink; think of it while lying in bed before you fall sleep; and always, always be ready to go back.