I want a gentle upheaval.
Like to have to ask for a coffee in a new language. To rummage through a wallet full of unfamiliar currency, hand over a crisp note, its colour a habit yet to be formed, receive cold, strange coins, with the profile of an ancient unknown personage sternly looking to the right.
I want to walk streets whose names I must whisper softly to myself as I read the signs, falteringly. I want to learn how the houses are numbered, see how trustingly the child’s bicycle has been left in the driveway, hear a radio on, an accent now undecipherable, fading in the air as I walk past. Cold air, dry air, crackling like the ground covered with orange and yellow leaves from a tree that is older than my mother would have been, but whose name I do not know.
I want autumn in a far away country.
The sky should be a sharper blue, without the familiar haze of noon-time sun, glaring at me for daring to be so close to the bulge of the planet. Maybe I would see wild ducks, outlining the head of an invisible arrow that points to the chase they are making for warmer skies.
Not all the locals will be unsuspicious. My colour may stand out. My jacket will be the wrong weft. They may worry about my cultural baggage. But I want to tell them, I only want to be here. Because I have read of your place in books and seen it in movies, I have dreamt of your trees and your air and your sky. I won’t build high walls and celebrate alien festivals with no respect for your own traditions.
I won’t sit you down to tell you of my life. That is not what I want. I want a gentle upheaval, an unsettling, a step to the side. My comfort zones, my happy places, are too far back in time, irretrievable, tied to people and cultures that have been decimated by bulldozing human mobs. No one asked as they built their high rises if those deep foundations rattled the bones of my grandmothers. No one asked if the high new walls would put the pear tree in a shadow so after thirty years of fruit, it fell barren. No one wondered if it would alarm us, if they beat their drums so loudly or spilled sacrificial blood on the streets.
And so I want to leave.
I want to find a place that mirrors my childhood. Where individual diversity was respectfully kept indoors and on the streets, you were only human. Watching for the children, talking to the elderly, walking the old streets, past the old houses where families waxed and waned, the trees rising higher and higher as each generation gave way to the next. The little boy with his grandmother’s hair playing ball with the aunt with her great grandfather’s eyes beneath coconut trees as old as the village.
I don’t want to leave.
But I want to feel something other than hopelessness and disappointment and fear. I don’t want to see the old houses lose their old gentle families, give way to bulldozers and trucks full of ugly cement, to be filled with a strange, loud, people who do not know these streets they fill their fancy cars with. Who do not care that that woman they just honked loudly at has been walking these streets for 70 years. She may be my father’s sister. She was here before you. You must respect her ways.
I want to leave.
I want to take my children and leave. I want to go to a place that reminds me of home, where I have to remember, rather than learn, that kindness and empathy and standing up for those who cannot do so for themselves are not something to be celebrated, but just a way of life.
When it is time, bring my bones back to where my mother lies. I want to rest beside her. I want to know for sure that all this chaos, this noise, this hatred, this callousness, cannot pass beyond the grave.
I will want for nothing then. I will be home.