Nov. 5, 2016, NY- New York doesn’t feel like the same home anymore. I have changed. Long Island, New York isn’t enough anymore to keep me stimulated. Being in this cocoon of the familiar doesn’t deliver the same level of comfort it used to. When I sit in a coffee shop, I don’t hear the silky smooth accent of Spanish serving as a constant reminder of the new and foreign. I miss the filler words like “Toma! Venga! Aqui tienes. Esssssoo es!“- “Come on! Let’s go! Here you go. Thatttt’s it!”
I miss the feeling of being able to observe the Spaniards in their element and realize how painfully confined to being products of our environment humans are. The frequently repeated mistakes they make in English. The Spaniards love to say al final, finalmente, por fin, like they have a fetish for grand endings and the powers of summary. On my intercambios they would mistakenly use it where it made no sense in English, “Finally, we can just go to La casa de la Cerveza.”
I was expecting a warmer welcome from my extended family, but I forget how self-interested most people are. I am the most self interested of all of them. I thought I would be fielding more questions about my trip, but conversations with aunts and uncles didn’t last longer than 2 sentences, besides the two or three cousins I am close with. The bridal party and groomsmen/bridesmaid came out in their pairs and did their little rehearsed dance, the most notable being the fishing reel pulling in the pouting lipped fish.
I’m not close with the groom, Dan, my cousin, he and married a very attractive 28 year old named Emily, good for him. Attractiveness being her most notable quality, it covers the depth of her personality. Dan has this glaze that coats his being, like cloak aimed at preventing people from seeing anything authentic or unfiltered. He has always tried to be a person worthy of liking, he has compiled a bulletproof resume of lucrative jobs rather than just being a person that happened to be likeable for admirable traits and qualities. The end product is an identity that rings hollow, as if I’m talking to a mannequin, or a paper cut-out, that emotes reactions manufactured in a computer lab. I found it to be a bland and unfriendly wedding full of attractive WASPs and distinguished old people.
During the cocktail hour preceding the reception, I sat on the cozy leather couch with the wood burning the fire a few feet away from me. The room was buzzing with middle-aged couples and attractive, muscular women in their late 20’s and 30’s. They must be part of the Crossfit cult. Everyone in attendance seemed to be of high socioeconomic status. I desperately flagged down another woman in a boot for need of a conversation partner. She had a “Jones” fracture “it’s the one all the basketball players get!” like Kevin Durant.” “Ah, what a drag, mine is a stress fracture, too much running and walking in Spain this summer.” After this fizzled, I started a conversation with the attractive, if a bit haggard, busty woman sitting next to me on the couch.
“Who are you voting for?” she said.
“Hillary.” I said, (I didn’t vote)
“Hm, I thought you would say that. You know I spent five years working for the FBI, I had a security clearance. And the things she did, I would be locked up for 30 years, for doing those same things.” I became visibly withdrawn making no effort to salvage the conversation and continue. She then filled the silence with a diatribe about how important mothers are and you really must treasure them! No one loves you like your parents!
Her affable husband, chimed in “ Do you need a drink buddy?” “Yes, thanks a lot, club soda please.” I obliged him.
I was minding my business on the couch when people started to file out of the room and the cast of Mean Girls, the bridesmaids, started to assemble in the matching hair pins and red dresses in the seats next to me. For a second I thought, why are attractive girls trying to sit next to me?
“So whose giving the speech?” I blurted. Before finishing the sentence, I knew I had overstayed my welcome. The women were doing their bridesmaids-only planning for the procession of the puppet drawn smiles and resting bitch faces of Newport High Society. It brought to mind Wedding Crashers, Sack and “John-my-boy!” with yachts and the lavishness of a Northeast port city. After a long pause before acknowledging me, to clearly let me know I wasn’t welcome, “I am” the queen bee said. She was the Maid of Honor and her speech later-on, was full of predictable sentiments. Ten seconds later, my cousin-in-law, who is dull and tepid, came into the room“Pete, I think the Bridesmaids are gathering here now to get ready.” She said. “Yeah, I can see that thanks” I said, and walked out. The people at this wedding had their noses permanently arched in the air.
The speeches were difficult to listen to and ridden with cliché. There were the same recycled lines you hear from movies like “So let’s raise a glass.” “He taught me hard work from a young age. I never did get my bike and camping gear back though!” HAHA, Gut-busting hilarity. “She is so beautiful on the outside but especially on the inside.”
I was content to sit on the couch and strike up conversations with strangers and women approaching senior citizenship . The same old conversations awaited me in the cousins circle (6 other males around my age), sports, TV shows, cousin gossip, new girlfriends etc.
I tried to participate in the festivities as best I could with one leg perched on a chair and the other standing straight up. I said to my cousin-in-law Kelly, who has a 5 and 7 year old, “things don’t feel the same, I just don’t feel as close with all my cousins anymore. Like we have all advanced into our safe and mature career tracks and want to fit into some boring cookie cutter version of adulthood.”
“I grew up in a very middle class upbringing, I didn’t grow up with the privileges you guys had. A lot of my friends still say to me, “You think your better than us now? Because I’m a lawyer.” Kelly said. Kelly is one of the few people I can have a real conversation with at these events. Most of the women there were either married or over 50, not much to work with. I wasn’t the most welcoming face with my scraggly, overgrown ”terrorist beard” as my aunts, uncles, and cousins not-so-affectionately called it.
I feel as if there is nothing for me here anymore, on Long Island, NY, Being here again and settling in, feels like wearing clothing that’s too tight or too loose, getting adapted to being home again. The sad part is that the place I settle always becomes equilibrium and “normal” just as it always did in Spain after taking a month. This is also liberating. Maybe I am changing. Writing about my own evaluations of myself and introspection is just a bunch of dreamy self flagellation and bullshit.
I certainly haven’t “found myself” as many travel bloggers claim. I don’t have a self to find, there’s too many of them to go around. I see myself as a chameleon or a blowfish, constantly reacting and bracing for the differences in other people I meet and my perceived expectations. I am being forced to wear so many hats and define myself in so many different ways due to the range and differences in people I meet.