This tiny town within a town. With all its sparkling new tiles and windows that reflect the sky. It is hard to imagine that it could be anything else but home. And yet.
I look around and I do not see my face in other people. I don’t see heritage. Instead, I see new structures that keep sprouting from the ground up, keen on replacing every childhood memory I’ve had with stories that will never involve me in a lead role.
Every few days, I see ten or so new people who don’t speak my language, barely familiarizing themselves with this city that tries so hard to meet their needs halfway like a lover that is thirsty for the relationship to work, and I think about how jealous I am of this arrangement. This life that’s slowly turning into a foreign movie without subtitles for me.
I used to know this place. When there were only a handful of buildings. When I would look beyond the window and all I could see were possibilities, spread out in a vast empty land. When the salty air felt like an invitation to explore the city more. And it never saw me as lost. Just a curious child who kept coming back, hoping to find herself.
I’ve witnessed countless sunsets and it still takes my breath away every time the sun dips in the water far out in the horizon. I used to tell people, do you see that? People come here all the time to see just that. We name buildings after that. We treat it like it’s holy. But somehow that doesn’t feel true anymore.
There are walls and gates everywhere to keep us out. People don’t come here for the sunset. People don’t come here for the people, either. We have become backdrops for visitors that keep trying to re-shape our home. Decide that our language is not worth learning. Keep their heads down when they walk because the sunlight blinds them.
But we can only translate so much before we tire our brains out. And I promise, they still won’t understand all this beauty. Not when they are too busy changing this city. The stunning sunsets. The quiet early mornings dotted by birds chirping. The mess. The streets that are mapped out in my veins. The dark corners that act as refuge for those stranded in their heads from last night. All its secrets only we know and keep.
I wish I could wrap my arms around this entire town and say, “Love, we don’t need them. They don’t see it. They can’t love you like I do. Like a heart homesick for its own rib cage.”
And I may forget sometimes–the same way we forget we have hands on days we don’t know how to use them–but no matter how different we become, it will always belong to me. I will always belong to this city.