Truth is, I haven't let myself think about it much. Three hundred and eighty-five miles is nothing when compared to the scale of a planet, but it's a planet when compared to the scale of a life. While putting together my breakfast this morning I asked myself what the hell, exactly, I thought I was doing, planning on returning to the town of my birth. What do I hope to see? What do I hope to accomplish?
I'm not sure.
A friend said to me a few months ago that returning home to visit a small town can often make you feel that everything there was preserved in amber, and that while you have changed, nothing else has. By the end of this week I'll have my answer, but I think I know it now. Some names have changed, but I think it will be many years yet before Tull changes away from what it has always been.
I did, after all, grow up on a one-lane pea-gravel-and-asphalt road named for my great-grandfather.
I could write about the smaller questions simmering in my mind, but they all boil down to something deeper: which is true, the self I was, or the self I've become? I can pose it in surface questions, like: "Will my accent stay the Alabama/Georgia hybrid it has become, or drift back to the Arkansas twang of my childhood?" In a town of almost completely interrelated people, have I done the impossible and really left, or have I just gone away for a while?
I've been out here for nearly eight years now and I still don't have an answer to that question. At night I'll catch myself thinking that this, this … Huntsville … was the dream world, and that tomorrow's waking will show me to be home, really home, and that you all were nothing more than a feverish intense dream of what I really wanted.
I gave up the kind of roots most people spend a lifetime trying to achieve because while they were mine by birthright, they were wrong for the person I was becoming.
I leave Friday morning.