I’ve been thinking about America lately. Not the America that’s on TV, or the political America, but my own personal one, the one that I’m kind of intrigued by but certainly don’t want to get too close to. My impression of America is not the pristine one that I saw so many times as a kid in the late 80s and mid 90s, but the one I saw in 2003 and 2004 the last time I was there until now, and forever.
2004 was for me the lost year, where I lived in the past (I was trying to re-do the magic of 2003 but it had dissipated), was alone, had people to see but who didn’t care so much if they saw me. I took walks alone, was tense and sad but happy that I was free, free to not have to associate with people, free to not have to work, free to not have to do anything except soak up my solitude. For if 2003 was the year that travelling worked, then 2004 was the year that it didn’t. I wanted a girl to give a shit about my presence, and I looked for it from past memories and moments that were gone baby, gone, girls who had moved on and hadn’t forgotten but I was a memory to them like they were to me, even as I briefly saw each of them again in the flesh.
I got sidetracked. I arrived in America in late May 2004, right as the impossible had happened on the soccer field (Porto European Champion 2004), and once there I ran into a bunch of people who lived in the rich country but dealt with the tension of its less-publicised lack: they were struggling, getting into and out of relationships and avoiding the African-Americans and having abortions and having to drop out of college for lack of money and get real jobs. It wasn’t ghetto, and I got a slight taste of ghetto that existed in its own world nearby, but it was something, and I felt that I would not want to do this, be American, have to fight for everything, be this fucked up. Because to some extent they were: their parents hadn’t really known how to raise them without them all turning into little emos ten years along the path, teens and twenty-somethings who never learnt how to control their emotions, who took pills, who grew up very fast but never matured, they never took that final emotional step into adulthood at any stages of their lives, wearing their hats backward as they visited bars and strip clubs well into their thirties.
My mission was a black girl named Ashlee. Wait, that’s wrongly worded. I loved Ashlee. I loved her without even knowing her, not really. Her face was not attractive and if I hadn’t seen her face-to-face in 2004 I might have thought it was hormones, but I took a walk around a forest preserve with her and found that I loved her dearly, even though she repeatedly screwed me around by not showing up to whatever place we agreed to meet at. I don’t know if I can say I love her anymore; she’s just an idea now, and to some extent even Lizeth the goddess of Paradise Lost fame (see blog title) is just an idea now too. Ashlee lived in dire straits, she scraped money where she could, by fair means or foul, and I was just some naïve white boy from Australia who had only had his first kiss the year before. She was my first kiss, and I’m happy it was her. That doesn’t mean a whole lot now, but still, Ashlee had a certain dignity, faith, kindness and soul amid the rubble, that other women just don’t have. She was fucked up too, but show me a person who isn’t, deep down.
I don’t know what I could have done with her. I couldn’t save her from the sordidness of her circumstances. I couldn’t form anything with her. Her mood was weird, and mostly she was exasperated with me, but we had that one talk in person and one talk by telephone in 2004, a year after we had spent a week together in 2003, pre-dissipation of magic. I am sure that I loved her, in a te amo sense in Spanish, the major one, not just the te quiero that you throw around willy nilly. But why? I don’t know, I just did. I wanted to save her. But she’s still kicking on somewhere out there in Chicago and it turned out that she didn’t need saving. I caused a tear to fall from her cheek, and when I said goodbye to her I placed my hand on one side of her face while kissing the other cheek, like a woman would do. To some extent I probably would have been a better chick than I am a dude.
In the last month I walked around aimlessly as the country got colder and time wound down. I was immobile, hanging out with a guy that had recently turned gay, whose sister went for the blacks and whose father drank, but who gave me a free place to stay and who I became fond of despite my original reservations. I stayed there in the middle of their parents getting a divorce, in the middle of everything. I was a prisoner of my physical placing, of my circumstance, of my unrequited love, of my despair, of my lack of friends. Yet I delayed going home, hoping against hope. I spent one evening at the house of a fantasy, Liesl. I was five years older than her and she was illegal. I charmed her parents though. She was beautiful, huge eyes, long blond hair, and I was stunned. But I left America in disappointment with Liesl and Ashlee on my mind a few days later, and I don’t believe I ever want to go back again. I got out just in time, on November 16, right before the snow fell and dusk was already happening at 4:45pm (!). I had spent months walking around alone on roads that went nowhere, thinking that I was on the frontier (but the place was really a meaningless nothing in hindsight), eating ice-cream Blizzards alone, taking long-distance bus trips alone, racking up the hours staring out the window, comfortable in my solitude but I had always known that something was missing, and that I had found it in 2003 but it was gone in 2004.
I discovered: I have a passport to this country, but this is not my country. I was lost there, chasing ghosts. I had no idea. I had to get out, start again, even if I went to Bolivia rather than Australia to find it, postponing real life once more. At least Bolivia was new, it wasn’t America yet again, that land of vagueness, not of sadness but of something-ness nonetheless. That is my America. And America will stay that way for me, because I will not do it again. I am not afraid of America, nor even have negative feelings against it, but I will never go back there.