Why being back in America is like seeing an old ex

Being back in America feels a bit like visiting an old ex.

I knew it well, once. I knew how it worked, the way it functioned, the hours it slept and woke and what it drank, how it drank. Then we parted ways and things changed. I changed.

1175186_912737639616_1489664811_nNow I’m back and everything’s just a bit strange. I forgot how large it was, or how the grocery stores sprawl away from you with huge promises of endless items. I find the space startling – the endless roads, the large chunks of grass, the houses that have windows on all four sides.

I once spoke the same language as America. We understood each other. The jokes. The humour. The natural exuberance, or the endless pride, the patriotic love, that seeps out into phrase upon phrase. Now, after four years in the quietly refined atmosphere of England, my words are modified, if only slightly. I say things then have to explain the terms (‘wellies? What are wellies?’ – and then, ‘what is all the rain?’).

I forgot how open Americans are, particularly those in the Midwest. They’ll talk to you as you buy your coffee. They’ll smile as you pass, maybe say a soft ‘hello’ as you move through the door. London has taught me to move quickly, move aggressively, to stare forward without seeing. In America’s heartland, everyone sees.

It’s sweet and bittersweet in the same breath, seeing this ex of mine, being back in the US. I remember all the things I loved about it – the warmth, the optimism, the people who fill my heart, the patriotism – even as I compare it to my new fling.

I have a week left. I’ll find the beach and enjoy the sun. I’ll explore more little cafes, drink more iced tea, listen more to the cadence of the American accent.

It will be amazing and fascinating, making me a tourist in my own country. A visitor to a place I used to love – and one that I very much still do.

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