I’ve never known how to write this piece. How do you write about all you’ve ever known? How do you write about the clone town you’ve skirted around your entire life, with the same shops as the next town, in the same order with the same stock and the same staff? I wonder why people think the highstreet is dying? Anyways, I’ve never found the words for this. How do you describe the town you go to school in, where you take the bus that never fails to come late (or never comes at all)? The town with dust on the roads?
How do you describe a hometown that doesn’t feel like home?
After all this time in my house, even going to town feels more exciting that most things. You can forget what something feels like after so long without it, even if you’re still familiar with the motions. In particular, you can forget what it feels like when your father hauls you around the roundabout, going too fast (as always). You forget the head rush, and you forget instinctively gripping the hold in the door as the adrenaline surges through you; it’s unfamiliar to you now. You forget what it’s like to feel small among the buildings—they are warts and verrucas among the hills, rolling green on the outskirts of town. You walk through the square—past the Odeon that isn’t open and the restaurants closed for good, and you wonder if it’s even worth coming here anymore. Is it worth it, coming to a dead place?
In my geography class, big windows overlooking the grey and the dirty, we classify this town as a commuter town, as a garden town, as a town where there’s nothing to do. We see through promises with tired eyes, unhopeful that anything will ever change. Even if we move, we know we all have a tether to our home town. My geography teacher spends our lessons telling us the ways in which he has travelled. He tells us stories of Canada, New Zealand, places that now feel fantastical to the home-bound mind. In a series of emails, I ask him why he decided to move back here, to the dead town where he grew up.
In response, he just tells me to see the world. Say where and move further. He tells me he moved back here to be closer to his family and in the same breath, he tells me to run.
Holly Zijderveld (she/her) is a writer, student, and avid collector of assorted paper items, currently living in the UK. This piece was inspired from her thoughts about moving away from the place she grew up, and the bittersweet feelings that come with it, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to read more of her work, check out her website at hollyzijderveld.carrd.com, or find her on Twitter @hollyzijderveld