NOTA BENE: Submitted on January 25th to Midtown Reader’s Story Slam. Read at Midtown Reader’s Story Slam event on February 1, 2018. Process notes below the piece.
I’m afraid that when I leave Tallahassee, I’ll lose it.
I treated this city like a lover. I flirted with it, yearned for it, got dressed up and went out on dates with it. It took a few years, but I fell for it. Tallahassee would have been my forever.
But a city can’t really love you back, so I tried loving the men who were born here. Men that complained to me that they could never escape, that they’d never amount to anything because of the super magnet or the sinkholes or the alcoholism that runs in their family.
Tallahassee rears boyish men that claim you make them too happy to write music, make them absolutely crazy, make them want to buy you a house–only they never do. Boyish men that I wanted so badly my chest ached and my bones hurt and I wrote so much terrible poetry. I was convinced by their tattoos and their hands between my thighs and how much this city loved them that I must be worthy of loving too, that they could somehow love me back. The men and the city.
Jane Eyre is my favorite book. All three of my copies are rotting in the trunk of a 1990 Mercedes 300E, white with leather interior. Four years ago, a man I loved let it get towed away to a junkyard without telling me.
In this city, you can only lose things you never wanted to be rid of.
Loving this city is going to the springs on a Tuesday, having completely forgotten that there are people wearing business casual and going to offices, running the state capitol and major universities. You sink your toes into the mud and wonder how many dead bodies and alligators are floating beneath the tannic water.
Loving Tallahassee is taking a writing workshop, in a beautiful house with a big screened in porch, where you’re the youngest by 15 or 20 years. You bring your drunk prose about the boy you love (who doesn’t love you back) that isn’t very good at all, but the women you read to are kind and wise and they understand. They teach you more in one month than your four years at Florida State ever did.
But this city is at its best when it’s just a hub connecting back roads to other small towns, where the thrift stores aren’t so picked over and where you never run into anyone you know or used to sleep with. You’re nothing but a sweet stranger.
People ask me why I’m moving, why I’m leaving after eight years, and I can’t tell them the whole truth. I can’t tell them I feel like I’ve lived a hundred lifetimes in Leon County and I didn’t do a great job with any of them. That nothing feels the same, the magic is gone, this city isn’t what it used to be because the people I loved while I was here keep leaving, fading, disappearing and I can’t take it anymore.
I can’t tell them it’s because I stopped wandering into the woods alone two years ago, just to be somewhere that felt big enough to swallow me whole, that felt more powerful than the thoughts in my head. I wanted the Spanish moss to suffocate me.
I love Tallahassee, but you can’t make someone miss you and you can’t make this city care that it’s finally worn you out.
PROCESS NOTES: This is the piece I wrote for Midtown Reader’s Story Slam and read the day before I left Tallahassee. Thinking about the place I wrote this piece from feels so far away from the place I’m at now, but I wanted to get this version of the piece catalogued before I try editing it with the new perspective I have.
This original version of the piece was created from two different free-writes on the Story Slam provided topic of “love and loss” that were not strong enough to stand on their own.
The most surprising thing I learn every time I read a piece out loud is that people think my writing is funny. In my head, it doesn’t sound funny. I can understand why other people find it funny and I am glad that it gets a reaction out of people. But I do wonder if my reading style versus the written cadence has any bearing on the reception of my pieces.
I wanted to submit this to a publication but it’s about 125 words below the preferred word count and I can’t bare to stuff this piece with fluff just to make it fit some submission guidelines.