On leaving, and coming home again

2 years, 9 months and 16 days ago, I received a visa allowing me to visit Italy for 3 months. There was a lot I wanted to leave behind, and I had no idea what I was looking for. I told people I was leaving over social media, because I thought that there was no one who would care enough for me to pick up the phone and call them. No one I cared enough to call.

Today, I got my visa to go to France for a year. I have my best friend waiting for me there already, and I have the people I’ve made my homes to leave behind. There is so much I’ll miss, two cities so different, both teaching me vastly different things.

Johannesburg filled my heart with jugs of sangria with people who could make me laugh past 3am and hold down barbed wire for me as we scrambled up hills at midnight. It filled my phone with too many photographs of sunsets on the way home to the first place I ever paid rent for, and then the second. This is the place I learnt to love gin and tonic and being on time. it’s where I wish I was from so I could have had more time there. It taught me what it’s like to hate to leave.

Cape Town is harder. It doesn’t feel like home, but I can drive here for hours and never be lost. I use the mountain like a compass, like everyone from here and I know the roads well enough to know the best places to be alone. Growing up here is the reason I could leave and know I’d be okay on my own. The flowers come out and sea smells of lemon and I love knowing my way around, even as I can’t wait to be somewhere, anywhere else. But coming back isn’t the same as never leaving, and being away means discovering new ways to come back- new friends like old souls and old friends’ houses that remind me of the best parts of growing up, and we laugh and laugh over the bad on the beach in the dark, sipping on cheap wine like we always did. It’s not home, but it’s a part of it.

Italy was different because I love to stand in lines for my coffee and drive between lines on the road, and none of those things happened there. but I learnt that I also love running for the bus home at midnight, or way past it, and reading under a streetlight when I don’t make it on time. I like rooms that always smell like oranges and becoming friends with people that are nothing like me, except that they’re also somewhere strange, alone, and smiling. Italy was constantly confusing, and I still miss it.

I speak to him, the anomaly in my pattern of leaving, because this time I may not know where I’m going, but i know who I’m going to. And his homesick heart aches for all the things that feel comfortable and safe. I know the feeling of wanting to know where every road leads. But that feeling of suddenly knowing nothing, understanding nothing and loving the way bread tastes anyway, is always worth it. And I can’t wait to go, and find a new place to add to the list of places my heart will miss when I, inevitably, go somewhere new.

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