Posted by: Alice Inc. | June 20, 2009

Home Sweet where-the-hell-am-I?

“Drive 400 Feet to Arrive At Your Destination.”

But the building in front of me didn’t exactly scream “Community-College-Auditorium-Appropriate-For-A-Little-Cousin’s-Dance-Recital.” Instead, it seemed to shriek, “Inner-City-Rite-Aid-Appropriate-For-Biweekly-Hold-Ups.”

My now twice-referenced visiting boyfriend opted to remain locked in the secure, mobile vehicle, and dropped me outside the doorway so I could ask for directions to Niagara County Community College. I took my place in line behind an elderly man with cowlicks in his ear, and listened to Jake, the overweight post-teen with an unfortunate craterface, tell him that his coupons were two days old, and no, he would not accept them, just this time.

I suddenly got weak-kneed from behind and turned around to discover a freckled, blue mouthed little boy holding coloring books in his sticky jamhands. The intensity of his Carrie glare evoked The Bad Seed, and I found myself considering the legal repercussions of masing a minor. His mother, or sister, or some combination of the two emerged from the party aisle with a whimpering mini she-devil, who apparently suffered from delusions of rampant ants, and was doing her best to stomp them away with each step.

“buh- buh- buh mooooommmm i NEED it.”

“No, ya know i duhn’t git my pee-aYcheck intle the week ee-after neeaxt” she said, in that gut-wrenching South Buffalo accent I had spent the past four years My-Fair-Ladying out of my own voice. The she-devil went into a fit of ant stomping as I noted the three blue stars tatted on her mother’s neck. I wondered if the blue of the mouth of her persistently-staring son was just as permanent.

When I finally had the pleasure of speaking with Jee-ake, I discovered the Garmin had dropped me off about 15 miles from my purported destination. I got to the dance recital just as my parents, who, per usual, had shirked the responsibility of phone charging, walked out of the auditorium.

“But, Shannan, it’s NCCC,” my dad said, baffled, “How do you not know where NCCC is? You grew up here!”

He was right, sort of. Since I’ve been home, I’ve used my Garmin more than my toothbrush. That’s right, sanitation < electronic security blanket. I’ve gotten lost going to practically every popular place in Buffalo and my home-suburb: the art district, downtown, the casino, and a slew of restaurants ranging from 5 to 30 miles from my house. I’ve even been lost going to Canada. You know what the directions are to Canada? North.

The truth is, I didn’t grow up in my home-suburb. I didn’t even grow up in Buffalo. I can’t even give you a rough estimate of exactly where I “grew up,” and yet, I’ve never moved from the same blue house, with the same broken basketball hoop, that I was brought to from the hospital where I was born.

Try to follow this: My house is located in the mystical land of Lockport, a pretty self-contained community outside of Buffalo, known as the home of widest bridge in America, a 1996 Junior Miss contestant, a system of locks in the Erie Canal, and a public high school with a pregnancy rate that fertility clinics envy. This latter, rather remarkable statistic instilled in my mother the fear that you could, in fact, catch pregnancy at that school more easily than MRSA in gym class, and thus encouraged her to send my sister, brother, and I to a private school in Buffalo at the age of 9. It was the type of place that, if you were to step into school with a skirt three inches above your knee, 4 generations of old money would be notified before third period. My best friends from school lived in South Buffalo, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, Amherst… and the list goes on. Summers I spent playing travel basketball, or injuring girls under 5’10 in a plethora of sports camps, never spending more that a few weeks at home. To top it off, I was on three different sports teams outside of high school that practiced in various cities across Western New York. I partied a bit, but, as a hardcore athlete, I spent most of my high school career swapping more same-sex ass slaps than opposite-sex saliva. I was friends with everybody, but close with very few.

College only served as a catalyst for my ostricization from my supposed hometown. Because I played basketball, and therefore was awarded no winter break, I spent a total of about 5-10 days home a year — the entirity of which I spent crying over how much coach would make us run in our first practice back. The summers after my sophomore and junior years, I did what any responsible college student did — I interned for little to no money. Because Buffalo beat this country to an economic meltdown by about 50 years (read: we still rave about how we were the first to get electric street lighting), I shipped myself off to Boston to be with my bro and best friend.

So, while other jobless folks announced they were going “home” after college, I simply remarked that I was going “back to Buffalo.” I know next to no one in Lockport, and thus have never really considered myself its citizen. But, am I really from Buffalo? Sure, I know my Mighty Taco order, I’ve at least been to Anchor Bar (and ordered chocolate milk), I know that the bars are open until 4 (but have rarely experienced them after 2), but I seem to lack the minimum requirements of being FROM buffalo.

I don’t like hockey. I don’t own a single piece of Bills clothing. I don’t know how to get to Elmwood, Ave. I don’t even know how to get to my high school anymore. The people I run into from high school look at me like I’m a ghost, ask about my mom before they ask about me, and have a general look of apprehension in their eyes, like I might evaporate.

There’s a new block in my block. A whole street, complete with a pond and new, shiny bikes, ridden by new, shiny children, that just popped up while I was gone. So, I can’t be here anymore. I’ve decided to move. After I get back from Europe, I’m going to start looking for apartments in DC, and move down there to look for a job. At least I’ll know people there, and, if I get lost, I’ll always have my GPS.

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