I am invisible, secluded in a corner of my homebound train as it groans and clatters its only song across a thousand miles of tracks. Out of the window, telephone lines bob and weave against the blazing sky. Days-old patches of snow tuck away into the red earth while blackjack oaks fade into the endless, sun-drenched horizon.
This is the rural South. The home I know.
My whole life, I lingered here on hopes and dreams curated by the intergenerationally red-dirt poor. I left empty handed years ago, and spent the next few crashing on the shores of foreign places in a never-ending search for belonging. Time has marked its passing on my face, but it hasn’t touched the trees or rocks or sky dwindling into the delicate darkness beyond me.
I step off the train suddenly immersed in familiar settings. The sign at the station still reads Crestwood. The old rucksack slung across my shoulder bears my high school’s mascot. A collage of memories roam the streets illuminated under the only street lamp we’ve got. A literal trip down memory lane, I suppose. I can’t decide if this nostalgia haunts me or soothes my guilty conscience.
Was it my fault for not fitting in here? I never settled the argument with myself. I felt deceived by their contradictory social codes and not by the soft pink skies or the fertile plains. But did I betray them?
I don’t think it matters anymore, not during the holidays, at least.
The old streets cordially invite me to enjoy their Southern hospitality once more. I offer them amnesty for past transgressions and become visible again in the comforting familiarity of home.