I’m officially done with my third week of finals.
I escaped with a B in organic chemistry, dark circles under my eyes, and an extreme addiction to dirty chai — but I made it.
Now I’m home.
A part of me wonders if it’s wrong to be feeling the way I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my break. But I don’t want to be home. Every time I return to find my family more assimilated into the life here, I am reminded how much I don’t belong here. I didn’t move here from my hometown. I moved away to college and this is the occasional pit stop when they close the dorms.
There’s something off when I arrive here. Part of me wonders if it’s me.
I get the customary hugs from everyone and the “I’m glad you’re home!” I get to surprise my little brother at his school jazz concert and I get to help my sister edit a paper for school. Then, when the dust settles from my arrival and I noticed that somehow the dust of this place has been shaken off my shoes already, I slip into my basement bedroom to unpack. In the space of an hour, I am forgotten.
I have been replaced by my ghost.
“Remember when Sydney would cook dinner for us because she had the sloppy joe recipe memorized?” I am cooking right now! I cry out, only to find that my voice has been drowned out by the sound of food lifted to mouths, teeth chomping down on the same sloppy joe they just referenced.
“Remember when Sydney would play outside with me? I just offered to play with you but you didn’t want to go outside because you said it was too cold! I remind him, but he’s too engrossed in the football game on TV to hear my voice.
“Remember when Sydney would help decorate for Christmas?” I would have, but I was at school because I had finals!” I excuse, but they can’t hear me over the carols playing on the radio.
My ghost and I inhabit the same house. This house is haunted to me.
How can I come back here and belong when there’s part of me that never came and belonged in the first place? How can I come back here and sit at the dining room table when they have become so accustomed to the paler, less-real, distant version of myself sitting in that very seat? How can I come back and belong when they don’t need my contribution to make the family function normally?
Maybe that’s just it.
Maybe I can’t.