by Kleitia Vaso

Often, in order to continue loving something, you have to leave it. The sacrifice required is precisely the hardest one, the one in plain view that you don’t want to see. A shift in perspective, scientifically, a tear in the heart, emotionally but, whatever the phrase, a necessary act in reviving a love nearly extinguished by nearness. The only move left although temporally you might want to bury it and cover it up, keep it suspended like a ball or balloon in endless recriminations, coverings up, a fruitless cycle of blaming and forgiving. The last step, leaving, is the only one that promises longevity. Not ensures, just promises.

A relationship with a city is similar to that with another being. Perhaps, this kinship is not so strange given that the city is made of people. Even if it were made solely of marble, stone, brick or plaster, it would assume human traits. As does all that we touch, with our hands and our minds, not out of the objects’ own volition but ours. Our desperate need for acknowledgement wills the deaf material to “respond.” Whether the other party is silent or not, the story is told from our viewpoint and that’s the only perspective that matters; that of the lover or hater, not the recipient of such dubious bounty.

And a bountiful relationship it is, that between one and the home city. So richly layered in fact, so deeply ingrained that numbness sometimes becomes the only defensive response. A default and unaware self-protection triggered by an excess of emotion rather than dearth. It comes naturally yet seems disingenuous to compare this relationship to a first love; it is too neat of a formulation to accommodate the whole truth. The city that you did not choose but carried you for whatever reason – probably an accident, but one that shapes you all the same – holds you by strings you may at times deplore but can never entirely sever. The city holds you captive because its elements are one and the same with those of your body. The amount of light outside, as much as you can stand within, its temperature, the one of your blood.  Your eyes, shaped by its sights, ears from its noises, nose from its smells. Whether you acquiesce or fight this closeness, either response, for or against, represents a reaction borne of love, regardless of the channel chosen. Run towards it or away, the sun, the light, the sea, the wind, a tree, a place, a window, a door pull you back when you least expect them too. Even when you leave the city, it doesn’t seep out.

And, so eventually you return, finally defeated by the siren’s song. “Whatever happens,” you think, “I will be, at least, where my body feels at home.” That physical well-being, the oneness, merging seamlessly with the surroundings will alleviate the weight of any suffering. Yet, one cannot love alone. Try as you can to provide the warmth for both, it does not suffice. I have not yet resigned myself to a tepid response, unequal in intensity and sacrifice to the one I made willingly but not disinterestedly and, stubbornly, I ask of the city my due. Alas, defaced and defeated, it tells me, directly and indirectly, to leave, not to place undue pressure on it. “I don’t care about my own fate, cannot love myself, let alone anyone else.” And, respectfully, like a good respectful daughter, I obey its command. I am unable to love a city that doesn’t know how to love back. When it forces me out, I can take a hint: leave! Fighting against anything is a blind and furious bashing of the head against a wall, be it flesh or brick. So, before I am drained of love by its very object, I run, knowing that it is the only way to save us both. The key to love – perhaps – regained.

Momentarily, I would rather be hurt by a stranger.

by Kleitia Vaso