I like living in the city, but I love visiting the suburbs. Whenever I visit the folks for the holidays, I love looking out my old bedroom window. It’s still a new development, so there’s an unbroken view to the treeline, and above that the cloudy horizons of Baltimore County. The fall really brings out the geography – the rolling hills, the converted farmland.
Coming back to Baltimore is always bittersweet for me. It reminds me of nothing but the adolescent longing I had to get away – to make real connections with people, to get to a better city. The feeling was so potent that it still strikes me, over ten years after I moved away. Even now that I have a life better than I could have dreamed in Boston, I get swamped by this overwhelming loneliness every time. I radiated it for so many years that it’s baked into the walls. It’s a miracle I survived.
(I didn’t have a difficult upbringing, for any strangers reading this. This is more a comment on the sort of child I was than the sort of adults my parents were. As recently as a few years ago, you could ask me point-blank “how are you feeling?” and I might not answer honestly. My home life was fine; I was weird)
This probably explains why I retreated so regularly into fantasy in my adolescence. Video games, roleplaying games, science fiction, classic films – anything that would take me somewhere. This wasn’t about sharing worlds with other people. It wasn’t until college that I started gaming regularly with friends (making some of the better friends I have). This was just about Getting Somewhere Else. I had an imagination before I had a car.
Now, of course, most of the games and books I owned as a teenager have migrated to Boston. Whether they were anchors or ladders, they’re no longer there.