Into the woods

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There were four of us girls who left to study abroad from high school. Now the third, a friend who has worked as a stewardess, has announced that she’s coming back. I’m the only one who’s staying.

We all left when we were barely eighteen. Two left for UK, two for Switzerland. The first came back after six months. Then there were three. We never met up but exchanged the newest every once in a while.

Life took us in different directions during the next seven years. The two other girls have been more able to nurture the friendships they left behind, while I’ve gotten into arguments with people and cut them out of my life. If I decided to come back, I wouldn’t have much to return to.

I don’t consider any of us a failure or a success. It’s just different.

Whenever I come back, I feel more cut out than the last time. New celebrities, TV shows and words have come up and it’s getting more and more difficult to find common ground. I’m basically a tourist who knows the language.

Even though when someone asks me something I reply in English first.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel. It’s not made any easier by the fact that depression makes feeling things more difficult in the first place.

I don’t get out of the bathroom first because I pull the door towards me instead of pushing it. It’s funny how quickly your reactions get conditioned. This is how we operate here.

My first thoughts are always criticisms. My parents have moved near a ‘summer city’, which could be popular among tourists but the high street looks like someone took off the batteries from all the clocks in the early eighties. Everything is old, worn out, ugly. I feel personally embarrassed thinking what any tourists or passing truck drivers might think. What a shithole.

I listen to MPs talking in the house of parliament about things I haven’t kept up with, seemingly wasting time in matters that don’t matter. Or maybe it does, I wouldn’t know anymore. I feel like a child watching the news.

Someone says I sound like a foreigner.

Everything seems so small. Is this the snobbery people tend to blame me for, that I look down on my roots now that I’ve been to the big world?

Maybe, but everything still looks small. It doesn’t mean anything to me. I’d love to feel nostalgic at least about something.

The forests have stayed the same. The earthy smell of hot, dried evergreen needles, the soft sighs of wind rustling birch trees. It’s so quiet that you can hear your surroundings draw ancient breaths. The earth crunches softly as the dogs sprint after one another. I nod at a passerby. They don’t nod back. I’ve forgotten we don’t do that here. Before I get to stop myself I’ve already mentally tutted. How rude.

People ask me at regular intervals would I ever come back.

No.

They don’t seem to accept such a stark response. ‘Maybe one day’, the soften.

I don’t give any leeway.

No, I’m not coming back.

They don’t know what it’s like to feel so detached. And these are supposedly my people. I have nothing to talk about with them. I’d feel strange if someone pointed out a person and said ‘go talk to them.’ I wouldn’t know how. I haven’t met any new people here since I moved. What do they talk about?

Your interaction with others is more tied into your culture than you think. Just listening is different. Here you’re supposed to stay quiet, let the other person talk. Never ever interrupt. Maybe a occasional nod. No ‘a-ha’s, no ‘oh’s, no ‘really’s.

After hammering the word ‘please’ into the back of my skull the word doesn’t exist. I sound formal and out of sync.

I’d like to know what the others girls have experienced to get the desire to come back. Did they feel a tug at the chest when walking in the woods, did they miss how you can just be quiet and listen what the other person has go to say? Is it something I will experience one day when I least expect?

First there were four. Now there is one.

 

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