On my first Thursday in Glasgow, I found myself sitting in a position that I did particularly care for: alone, in a restaurant (a Pizza Hut, mind you) watching the rain. This is such a typical vision of what a “romantic” American is to look like in Europe, I thought. But as I continued to sit among the stoic, oddly thin people around me, I couldn’t help but feel truly atypical. For one thing, here I am; a Black man from the south, who lived in the northern states for the latter half of my life thus far. And now here I am living across the Atlantic Ocean, in a country where knowledge of American history doesn’t seem to go past 1776. It really is quite fascinating! All the while, as I was sitting waiting for my Mediterranean Pizza, and breaded garlic mushrooms to arrive, I couldn’t help but think of her. Did she miss me? More importantly, did she even realize I was gone?
You see, Virginia cried when I left. Though she kept her sunny demeanour, tears managed to fall anyway. It was as if she were trying to keep calm under the pressure. And I appreciated it. Philadelphia, however, was a whole different story entirely.
My relationship with Philadelphia was one of the most tumultuous experiences I had to endure. There were many days where she was just a plain bitch to me. She’d scream sirens in my ear or profess bloody murder on every street corner. Most days I hated to even walk down streets with her because I felt she was just vile and uncouth, and more importantly, disrespectful. She just didn’t give a fuck. I guess that’s why she was such a hood-rat to me. My little Philly had no concept of dreams. It seemed like she, as well as her children, couldn’t see beyond their front stoops and that’s where we clashed. She never desired to challenge herself, but she sought out fights whenever she could find them. To be honest, I knew from the start that Philly and I would be a temporary match. I got the impression that she did not feel the same way. She thought I would be a part of her forever. I guess this is why she never anticipated my departure.
The night before I decided to leave Philly behind, I tried to gracefully end our relationship at the restaurant that started it all: Ms. Tootsies. I wanted to tell her goodbye in a nice respectable way (over tilapia, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens). When I got to the restaurant, I was informed that their credit card machine didn’t work. Okay. Plan B.
I decided to go across the street to Govinda’s, a nice vegan place that Philly introduced to me a while back so that we could get a vegetarian chicken cheese steak and a piece of cheesecake. My credit card would not work at that spot. Alright. Can someone say “sabotage?”
It was then I noticed that Philly was being difficult. She knew what I was trying to do and was intentionally trying to prevent me from going. So I stomped across her mean streets to Five Guys and purchased a burger and a Sprite. If Philly wasn’t going to be elegant about this, neither would I. Needless to say, the next day Philly was all smiles and sunshine (denial at it’s best) and I was trying with all my might not to make my exit more emotional than it had become.
I got home to Virginia feeling happy, but simultaneously like I’d left something undone. I never got a chance to say my final goodbyes to the city I’d fallen in love with. You see, for me, the crux of love is in the arguing. Philly and I had many arguments, but somewhere deep inside, that’s where my love for her was. I wanted her to be better. I wanted her to dream and to do tremendous things. She didn’t share in my beliefs, and that’s why I, reluctantly, had to move on. Her negativity was becoming a deadly virus and if I would’ve stayed with her, well…we all know what the result would’ve been.
My eventual consensus was that maybe Philadelphia wasn’t supposed to be my girlfriend, but instead my homegirl: someone who, despite everything, pushed me be greater than I was. Maybe, she was just supposed to be my example of what not to be. Whatever she did…I thank her for getting me to this new chapter in my life.
Now, after leaving my city behind and witnessing this new one which is prone to crying at inopportune moments, speaking garbled speech that I can’t understand, and introducing me to foods that would make American’s gasp, I can’t help but think of the girl I left behind. She was the only long-term relationship I’ve ever truly had. And it felt a bit weird sitting at a table alone, eating odd-tasting pizza (it’s not like American pizza) and listening to Usher croon “Burn.” Should I let my wick of love burn out for the place that developed me so much? Or will I soon be the one precipitating my feelings all over foreign streets?
As I think this, a familiar piano melody trickles into my head from the PA system in the restaurant. It’s John Legend’s “Ordinary People.” I smile to myself because the song is appropriate. But then I wonder why is it that, no matter how ordinary you feel, we can’t seem to embrace the extraordinary elements in our lives? Could it just be that I’m an extraordinary person…who “still doesn’t know which way to go?” And is that a bad thing?
As I got up to pay my bill, I thought about love briefly (as it is now my least of worries in this new continent). I thought of the loves I’d left behind (including Treasure and other members of my Live 5) and the idea of it completely. For some reason, I believe my love will be more focused here. It will be my love of Theater that will help me endure. And those other twenty-four faces I met on the first day of class…well…I guess eventually I will develop a love for them as well.
Before I close, I have some unfinished business: “Philadelphia…I loved you when we first laid eyes on one another, but please understand that my life deserved something more, which you could not give to me. If it was meant for us, then the growth we will achieve apart will eventually bring us back together. Until then, goodbye.” Class is now in session.