This weekend, surrounded by double-decker buses, Cody and I took black cabs and wandered through galleries; we shared a plate of ‘biscuits’ and sipped dark coffee out of very white cups, and while I loved every bit of it, there was a moment sitting outside at the cafe when I felt so far away from where I come from. Biscuits in the world I was brought up in are to be covered with livermush gravy and eaten for breakfast; coffee should be rainwater weak; cabs should be yellow, slicked with rain and hailed only in movies.
For years, I likened this feeling–this far from home feeling–to one of being an impostor. As an undergrad when I flew to England in an old itchy green sweater with nothing but a soft duffel bag and a journal, I was afraid of being found out, afraid that somehow “they” would “know” I wasn’t one of them. It’s that same thing that kept me from carrying a camera to far too many foreign countries: the fear of appearing to be a tourist, an outsider, an other. Even sadder, though, I sometimes think it also kept me far from home.
There’s an old home video of me in a rocking chair on the front porch wearing a long cornflower blue dress. I am fifteen. “Davey, Davey,” I yell, and my southern accent is so thick, I cringe just thinking about it. “Come sit on my lap and sing Jesus Loves Me.” Dave, now grown and married and able to love and barbecue, runs to me and sits on my lap and sings song after song, until the camera man (read: dad) gets bored or tired or just needs to go in and boil water for the mac and cheese, and the screen goes black.
I don’t really know what happened to my accent. Sure, if I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine my words get taffier, and my fake one ain’t bad, but why was I so anxious to lock that part of myself up? I wish–at fifteen or sixteen–someone would have given me a good shaking and told me not to be so quick to cut whatever it was I was so bound and determined to lose.
And heck, maybe they did, and maybe I didn’t quite listen at the time, but I can still feel it knocking my bones; I can still be rattled, still shaken, until, suddenly, I’m just a little ways around the world, not so very far away at all. I sit with my love; the rain has stopped for a spell; he doesn’t ask what I’m thinking; instead, he breaks the last cookie in two and offers me the sweetest half.