Thursday, August 10, 2017

Expectations and Observations

Expectations I

Home is the place I can predict.
Away is the place I cannot.

To learn what home is, I leave.
I remind myself:
There are going to be surprises,
unexpected changes,
last-minute reshuffling of plans,
and maybe it will be good,
or possibly it will be bad,
but you certainly won’t die from it.
And then I forget
and predict the unpredictable.
I prophesy catastrophe:
I will misspell
my own name
on the customs forms,
be thrown into Irish airport jail,
never again to see the light of day.
The ATM will eat my debit card.
My purse will be stolen.
I will wander the streets destitute.
All of Ireland will have
neither restaurants nor grocery stores.
I will starve.
I will forget something
profoundly important
and expire on the spot.

A frenetic exorcism of my anxieties,
named and enumerated,
they wind themselves into a spring,
knot themselves into
the muscles of my shoulders and neck,
part of me now.
A bit of the unpredictable is diminished. 

Landing, somehow, I have not yet died
(of embarrassment,
or heights),
been robbed,
or been voted off the island.

Away is the place I cannot predict.


Bins for recycling are not often seen.
Mail drop-off boxes are painted bright green.
Jars of nut butter are buried in stores.
Coins aren’t just change; they’re worth a bit more.
Everyone smokes; thick fumes choke the air.
Street signs are hidden; lost tourists beware.
Clothing is labeled to “KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE”.
Trash bags are strewn on the street to admire.
Drinking is legal; let the taps flow.
A butty, not a biscuit, is a breakfast to go.
No one packs water; they buy it to drink.
Hot chocolate comes with marshmallows, and they’re probably pink.

Expectations II

Among the familiar, I am a known quantity.
Everyone has already decided who I am, locked me into a box, lovingly written a label on top.
Their expectations choke, piling like stones on my chest.

Leave the place I know and am known.
Flee the familiar.

Alone and unknown, I become multiple.

I might be almost anyone:
Someone’s granddaughter
Just another lost American
Old enough to treat as an adult
Still a child
Confident and belonging
Lost and uncertain
Silent and occupied
Talkative storyteller
Awkward and ignorant
Victim of a tragic backstory
Beneficiary of a promising future

Don’t become familiar.
Once is enough.

The freedom of anonymity beckons from the crowd.

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