Each time I visit home, this conviction grows stronger. What’s different about this particular visit is that I typically don’t realize this until my third or fourth day here.
Usually, I spend my first couple days enchanted by this place I have so recently left. This feeling probably has a lot to do with having a car again. Anyway, during these initial days, I start seriously thinking about how much simpler it would make things if I moved back in with my mom for a couple of months, and transferred back to Georgia State once I’d lived here long enough.
But then, about mid-way through the trip, the nostalgia washes away — roughly around the same time I notice how much it’s costing me to gas up the car, and my legs are aching from having been in the driving position for 8 solid hours. It is replaced by a much more fervent urge: I need to go back to Oregon. This place — this unnaturally warm, sprawling behemoth of a settlement — is not something I’m meant to be a part of anymore. The moment my return flight breaks through the cloud cover around PDX, and the grid system starts revealing itself to me in patches through the (inevitable) rainy mist, I feel as comfortable as a person possibly can.
But so this trip, I step off the plane, and lo! My first thought, the 75-degrees and humid November air engulfing me, is this: This is most definitely not home anymore.
This feeling does not waiver as I ride Marta up through the city to meet my dad. I miss the way Marta has an odor, unlike sterile Tri-Met. The thing is, though, if I were a transit system? I know in my heart that I would smell like a hospital. Clearly, I am meant to take the Max.
And then, as my dad speeds me toward my mom’s house in his Lexus — several nearly-mauled pedestrians (my father would be stoned to death if he were a regular Portland commuter), and a couple of big-ass suburban developments that weren’t there the last time I came home passing through the rear-view mirror — it is very, very clear to me that I am no longer programmed to operate in this place. And maybe, if I had to live here for a few years again, I could be reprogrammed, but I really don’t think I’d want to be.