sweet carolina



It is time to leave the Triangle, our home for just shy of three years. We will leave behind us many memories, one truly battered sofa, and a chicken coop.

I remember my mother, from a faded microphone somewhere, telling me how, moving here, everything would change. How terribly prophetic she turned out to be. Who could have imagined what would happen here, to us, and everything she would not live to see?

Three summers ago, we left New York by train and were deposited twelve hours later at the Durham depot. We sat there in the humid, dying glare of day, atop a splintered picnic table, and called a cab to take us to our as yet unseen rental bungalow. Piled at our feet was our luggage: two suitcases, two laptops, an air mattress, and the remains of Ellen in a hot pink shopping bag, which had made the journey on my lap. What a baffling place this was to me that evening. How foreign and yet somehow preordained.

It’s still humid, often unbearably so. There are approximately two weeks out of every year where one can sit in shirtsleeves on one’s porch, unmolested by the cold, oppressive heat, or brute squads of mosquitos. Spring is still a flower riot, like a fireworks display. Great bounties of flowers, greens, and pork products are sold Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market (though perhaps I’ll miss warm apple fritters most). The sunsets still do something singularly magic here, just above the trees.

Here is an oasis of bright blue in a sea of red. A town with rainbow flags and lawn signs and non-binary bathrooms at the food co-op. Near other towns with free book piles on lawns, and used bookstores, and soda shoppes. All settled in this rambling tree-green, blue mountain state, beautiful even for the teeming kudzu and the poison ivy and the snakes.

I lost one car here, my mother’s. Drove another, twice, across the States. We gained a dog. I sold a book. We joined our lives here, planned a wedding. And returned here, to our house and dog, as newlyweds.

We became a family in Carolina.

That’s how we’ll leave. Though we’re putting yet another continent of miles between us and nearly everyone we love. Though our future on the other coast is fogged, at least logistically. And though part of me feels incapable of leaving, for abandoning the echo of that faded microphone. This is the last place she imagined me, among these muddy creeks and stately trees. This place is a promise—where she left me, for safekeeping. I leave here and I leave the dome of her imagination. The last parameters she placed me in.

But it is not home, not exactly. No matter how vivid the feeling of pulling up that first night in that rickety local cab. How strange to think a place that felt like ours, so homely and habitual, can feel suddenly done. As though our time here just expired. Winter faded with our purpose for this place. And now, as the annual jungle of rampant green grows back to choke us, and as the fist-sized spiders have begun their march of webs upon the porch, and as the sun whines hotter daily and the air more damp, it’s time.

Farewell, sweet Carolina. You smelled of hickory and soil and rain on pavement. You taught a one-time city girl where she rightly belonged. And she will not soon forget the sound of your rain in the mornings on the roof.


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