I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that when I leave here, I will grieve. I love this city and I feel like I’m dying to have to leave it.
I know it will still exist when I leave; I know will be able to return in the future. The city is, if anything, enduring. I can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t exist. The world would surely not be the same without it. This city is—more than any other place I’ve ever lived—human, alive! She lives, breathes. Born each morning, dead each night.
If you have never lived here, there is no way I can accurately explain it. If you *have* lived here, you already know about what I’m speaking. I don’t know if this is true, but I want to believe that if I had no family and no purpose, the city would be my reason. It is my home.
I did not grow up here. I have not lived most of my life here. Hardly. It was barely even on my radar before my serious college boyfriend dropped out and I had to visit him here if I wanted to see him at all. But, in my defense, I moved here *after* he and I broke up. This city has been my rebound, my tumultuous love affair since then. Two years. I’ve lived here two years. And I’m so in love.
And I have to leave. And I’m dying.
My city is nothing if not a harsh mistress. She’s stripped me nearly bare, whipped me until I begged respite, left me broken on the hardwood floor of my apartment time and again. This city has taken my heart, my hope, and my sanity and trampled them neath her feet without a second thought. And yet, I’m in love. She’s boiled me down to the essentials, chipped away everything unnecessary, and left me distilled and pure. I have learned the value of milk and eggs, the cost of a friendship worthwhile. I know now what I am—and what I am worth—better than I ever have.
Even now, sitting in the station waiting for a train, I know love the city. The ebb and flow, the crass style and language, the *people*. I love her bridges, her public transportation, the parks and green spaces, her dark rivers and high islands. There is no other place like it on Earth. So many lives; so much beauty; and I’m here, a part of it. There is no other place I could love with such intensity, surely. No other place.
I never want to go. I want to die here. There is no better place that I have found. Every time I go out, I fall in love all over again. I remember why I moved here. I remember why I want so desperately to stay. I fall in love with my city again, just as I did yesterday and the day before.
And I have to leave.
I want to die here, but it’s not my time. I can’t stay when my mistress asks so much. I would do anything, if only she would let me keep my dignity. But, mine is a city that demands total submission, complete humility, and I am still proud. I cannot give her everything when my loyalties are split. I love my friends, my family; I can’t do something to hurt them; not again. I’ve gone down that road, but the city demands no less, so I must go.
I’m not ready to give everything, even though I desperately want to be.
I’m so, so in love with my city. She’s willing, but I’m not ready. I haven’t quite hit rock bottom, and I’m afraid. I’m leaving because I’m not willing to do anything necessary to stay. But, no matter how I couch it, I’m still dying.
There will never be a youth like this again. I will never have a second chance in this city. I may come back, but it will never be the same. When I leave, I will leave behind my harsh, beautiful mistress forever. If I return, it will be on more equal terms, and I will never again be in her thrall. Not the way I am now.
I want her. I want her rule, her commanding hand, her *life*. I have never been more alive than I have been at the mercy of my unforgiving city.
And when I leave here, I will grieve.