In 1997, in prelude to a harsh breakup with a girlfriend, I was in the small town of Brunswick, Georgia. At the time, I was living in the historic district of town in a huge pink, wood chip, and rust colored Victorian pastoral at 927 Union Street. I assume it’s still there though it’s continued existence has very little relevance to my story.
The house itself was enormous. From the outside looking at the front it didn’t appear to be much, but the house was very long and deep. Once you stepped inside, it was separated into 4 separate flats. Each flat had something unique to it. Mine in particular was a sun-room with 4 full windows in the front of the flat, and an outdoor balcony in the front of the house. My flat in its entirety was likely about 2000 sqft. (The house was enormous and there were still 3 more flats in the house and mine being the smallest of the 4.)
927 Union Street Brunswick Georgia USA
As if it were straight out of a Norman Rockwell print, the exterior gave way to an interior having never been remodeled. It had heavy mud lathe walls with oversized moldings, thick with years and many coats of paint. The once sharp corners were ridiculously rounded by many tenants before us. The hardwood floors were worn with days you could remember the years by. The traffic patterns, in the deep cascading indentions, clearly hadn’t changed much in over 100 years. There were built in china cabinets with glass in the walls that did not close well due to the paint binding the hinges. The windows in the front of the house were small, but on the sides of the house the windows were at least 13’ tall. The ceilings were about 15’ high so that gave about a foot of wall space above and below each window. From what I can recall there were maybe only about 3 or 4 feet between windows. They lined the whole side and rear of the flat. For an apartment of this size it was amazing that there were only 2 bedrooms.
It was a blustery cold December day with virtually no heat to speak of. The coal fireplace that was there was had a large build up of creosote that could easily set the whole house alight. However, that fear didn’t seem to bother the previous tenet as we found an entire stash quick start logs in the foyer coat closet. I’d wonder around the flat, drink hot cider, and daydream of a life far away from there.
Being young and broke, I remember not having much in the way of furniture. Our first get together at the house we all sat on the hardwood floors with a single candle. Later that turned into a couch, a coffee table, and a mattress on the floor. However, I saw this entire event in life as a drab adventure. I had moved here with my girlfriend shortly after my music career had come to a close. Looking back on this experience, she was running away from a rather unfortunate legal event that took place while we were back home. Never the less, in my youth, I decided to runaway along with her not considering any consequences.
We weren’t in this house 3 months before we broke up and I remember being devastated. Young love always has its misgivings and I was certainly no exception to this rule. During this time, a dear friend of mine named Marty came to stay with me. On the weekends we would drive up to Savannah and visit a co-worker of mine from Russia, her boyfriend from Sweden, and their roommate from Ireland. They were students of SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design), but their stories of life abroad mesmerized me. It was then, on a whim, I decided I would move to Sweden.
The idea of being footloose and fancy-free is exhilarating on it’s own accord. Leaving out the gory details of the breakup, she had broken my heart beyond measure. However, I simply decided just to keep to myself, save my money, and dream larger dreams. We later made peace and laughed at our combined ignorance about young love, but our friendship never did regain traction. Marty played a huge role in my grieving the loss of my relationship. To this day, I will always love him for being like a brother to me. He also is a bit of a runner as he has resided in Beijing, China for the last 8 years.
My memory and backstory in this case is almost cliché. We all runaway from our own prisons we lock ourselves in. It’s more a question of when. Even if it’s only a dream of doing so. We are the very makers of our very own catastrophes. While at the same time the lone builder of our own redemption.
As I’ve been living abroad in Costa Rica for the last 4 months, I’ve met quite a few “runaways” in all age groups. Here in my little condo community the personalities range from owners, to eager vacationers, divers, photographers, locals, nut cases, tax dodgers, criminals in hiding, prostitution Johns, cokeheads, enough Quebecois (French Canadians) that Montreal must be half empty, and then a lone writer, ME. There are no shortage of people running from failed relationships, job loss, home loss, and even people merely regretting they hadn’t done something in their life much earlier. I’ve been to 22 countries in my lifetime, and in that time that I’ve learned that everyone is on their way to somewhere.
Consequently when I return to Georgia, the majority of the populous are still the same people I went to high school with. The American South is like a vortex in this regard. The people don’t change much; even some of the homes are still the ones I visited when I was 16 years old. This is decidedly convenient for me. Whenever the watercolor pastels of memory paint nostalgia into my mind, I just go to my teenage hometown. Most of my friends had families early in life. Some are terrified to leave. Some escaped, and I’ve bumped into them across America. The irony being most are on their way back to the South. My point being that even they chose their destination long ago. Albeit, the 3 towns they are scattered against like rocks in a tiny ocean have very few good occupations so the ability to escape becomes even more complicated, however not impossible. Their prisons are mostly stretched between love and money. Their desires remain mostly homeward bound.
I made a post a few weeks back about “The Trap” by Wilhelm Reich. We build our own traps and prisons. Homesickness is merely a longing for an old prison. Even prisons have relationships we long to return to. While I would never want return to the relationship I had when I lived in that Victorian home in Brunswick. I so loved that house. However, when I lived there it was poisonous to my entire existence, but how I adore the memory of drinking hot cider in that old prison of mine. It was familiar.
Through familiarity we lock ourselves in perception and hinder our future desire. I’ve watched my fathers friends work their entire lives at jobs they hate to save for a retirement they never got to experience, because they were DOA. I’ve seen people in 3rd world countries who have almost no chance of escaping their own life in tragedy have more hope than those in the West. Our first world problems tie up our minds so that escaping our known realities to dreams we had as children hold ourselves back. What happened to daydreaming? We’ve built such prisons in our Western lives that people attempting to live their dreams is considered fool hardy. Yet, we cheer those that make their dreams reality. We lose hope so quickly. I’ve seen hopeless people, and in Western life, there is always hope for a different life.
I refuse to see “Runaway” as a negative term. We all have dreams. A runaway should be commended for thinking outside the trap. Children runaway because they think they can runaway to better life. The grass isn’t always greener, but the grass is most certainly different. This maybe unacceptable as a child, but as an adult, why sit in a prison everyday wondering what is outside the door? Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped running away from something, and start running toward it?