Rendered Fat Content


Paul Klee: Cold City (1921)
"I only ever knew for sure that I didn't seem to really belong there."

Having spent the bulk of my life living as a ResidentAlien, the prospect of HeadingHomeward unsettles me. You see, as a ResidentAlien, I enjoyed certain freedoms open to nobody native born, though most of these freedoms amounted to Get Out Of Jail Free passes exempting their holder from feeling obligated to engage in what I might call civic life. Because the ResidentAlien holds no history to their adopted home, many local interests hold little attraction. Routine celebrations—fairs, parades, various galas— seem tightly focused upon parochial perspectives. Those holding Just Visiting status couldn't care less about the local founding fathers. Here in Golden, Colorado, for instance, Buffalo Bill Cody's memory remains revered in spite of his checkered career as a mass murderer of buffalo and a film flam man extraordinaire. The Muse and I have managed to miss the city's annual celebration in his honor, though we did out of curiosity once visit his grave which overlooks the region from atop the first tier of foothills. We were not moved by the experience.

Over the past twelve years, The Muse and I have been inhabiting more than living, for we've stayed in places where we almost never ran into anyone we knew when we went to the grocery story.
Knowing people seems a native's game not open to outside interlopers. It remains possible that one might successfully transfer into different country, but not without dedicated effort and the espoused long-term commitment to foreswear previous homes, and even then, acceptance generally requires years, often decades of dedication, and even then, some suspicion forever remains. Even successful transplants retain memory of native soils and exhibit a tangible hesitancy over engaging in certain sacred rituals—eating black-eyed peas on New Years or enthusiasm about participating in the annual testicle eating festival—can leave the ResidentAlien forever suspect. Even an accent tends to set one apart, however vigorously one might attempt to mimic the local one.

Perhaps the greatest benefit bestowed upon the ResidentAlien stems from that certain ignorance they carry. They know no history. They knew nobody there in second grade and they never heard of the neighborhood's most famous father. They do not remember when. Their past seems thin and insubstantial, however rich and notable their own history might have been. They might gain a fair weather friend or two but noone to reminisce with, nobody with whom silences speak louder than any sentences. It's overall a lonely and ever-further alienating existence. Unless one's on the lam for committing some heinous felony, ResidentAlien status seems over-rated, yet it's become perhaps the primary mode of living through this upwardly mobile era. It's seemed that in order to become anybody we had to volunteer to become nobody, we just had to abandon our home country for some place different, inevitably worse.

The ResidentAlien learns to adapt yet never fully inhabit their adopted home. They almost master the activities of daily living, locating shopping that somewhat suits them, though most choices forever seem like piss-poor substitutes for the genuine articles back home. The vast range of shopping options large cities offer mostly go unaccessed since they seem to require a certain knowledge no ResidentAlient naturally possesses. The BIG box store demands a membership and dues, both of which seem antithetical to civilized commerce. Local liquor laws will forever baffle anyone not raised around them, and the prized local dishes will seem eminently avoidable. I used Google to help me find what I needed and often conceded that nobody ever deleted references to all the places that no longer existed. I spent several afternoons searching for destinations that were no longer there, effort eerily similar to my home life there. I never for a moment lost the ache for feeling colocated with my history and perennially failed to resolve the mystery of where I belonged. I only ever knew for certain that I didn't seem to really belong there.

The prospect of living again back where I can remember when sets me back on my heels. I'm uncertain who I'll become when I can no longer give myself byes because I'm "just" a ResidentAlien. I suspect that my native pants will demand some growing into and I fear I might even be expected to act like a grown up for a change, to genuinely respect and revere both a history and a present I will perhaps understand too well, with no faking allowed. I could grow cynical, I suppose, were it not for my strictly imposed personal sense of ethical responsibility against adopting that sorry pose. Most significant, I suspect, will be my sense of belonging there after so many years spent suspended in the thin air of anywhere else. I anticipate a certain gravity descending to hold me in position. I even imagine that I might bloom without the familiar inhibitions common to self-conscious ResidentAliens. I suppose those neighbors who don't know me yet might parse me as just another member of the interloper set, though I hope their suspicions prove as short-lived as mine once my ResidentNative kicks back in.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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