As we drive up the motorway, the familiar outline of the mountain gets nearer and nearer. He asks me:
“Didn’t you feel a catch in the throat, when you came back from abroad?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I bet you had been missing this place. You know, after being away from home for so long”.
“I was gone for less than a year”.
I try to dodge: I don’t share his patriotism. However, it’s not wise to contradict one’s boss. Was I homesick back then? Not really.
It’s the sunset. The black silhouette is growing bigger. I try to remember the night of my coming back. The plane had landed and my parents had come to pick me up. My mother wanted to update me on one entire year of inane events of village life, and she intended to do it by the end of the journey from the airport.
Only a few hours earlier I was dragging my trolley in the busy streets. Children everywhere. Noisy teens in their hoodies insulting each other. Cheesy folk music from the souvenir shops. Random faces from basically everywhere. People queueing politely. Career opportunities. That sense of freedom that arises from being in a dynamic environment. Heavy clouds moving quickly in the unsettled, low sky, looked like a reminder that things can change. Evolve.
But now I was in my parents’ car, and my mother kept talking. I had never noticed she had such a heavy accent. We all had. I had spent one year without hearing my own language. It was dark outside, but I knew what was there: nothing. Just a dull countryside, the proverbial “middle of nowhere”. I started feeling mad at myself: why did I come back? I felt trapped.
Then we got to Bankville. There was more street lighting than on the suburban road, but it looked like a ghost town anyway. It was only a village, yet there were nearly more banks than houses. No one was around, and how could they be? No pavements, no places to hang on, a village made for cars, not humans. The asphalt and traffic without the advantages of a big city.
The next day I woke up to resume my old life. In the morning there was some more bustle, but I noticed the demographics. The population was getting older, like in the rest of the continent. I stepped into my aunt, she grabbed my arm: “Don’t you ever leave again! Your mother will be lost without you! She’ll be all by herself!”. What? She wasn’t ill or very old or crippled, so what was the problem? And what did it mean, alone? What about my father? What about her, and the rest of the enlarged family? We were all too grown up for that sort of drama. In any other country, someone would have advised her to seek psychological help; but here, youth are hostages to the elderly.
The sky was out of my reach. There weren’t proper clouds, just a veil of mist that made the sky less blue. There was no wind and nothing moved. Stagnation. No rain, but also nothing happening at all.