I find it fitting to pair a word like ‘algos’ that means pain, with a word like ‘nostos’ that’s double in weight. In Junior Year we read about Odysseus’ heroic return home, from where the word ‘nostos’ originates – isn’t it fitting then that the feeling of nostalgia is equal parts a victory that feels like coming home, but the suffering that accompanies it is the pin pushed through the triumph, swelling up our souls only to deflate?
I guess I’m a bit of a sadist for I purposefully search for that heartache. I’d designate moments throughout the day to shut out the world and sit with my nose shoved into your sweaters, or dancing in the drizzle of your perfume’s spray; I spend hours sifting through photographs that have been burned in my brain and I’ll schedule in time to listen to playlists that carry pieces of you, that have taken me years to curate. I’m not claiming to be immune to the pain but to me nostalgia is like the scraggly bear sitting on your pillows since you were eight – you have no use for it anymore and yet you keep it close as you move everywhere, like an anchor to hold you down, a reminder of your roots like a faded family portrait.
In fact you become so used to seeing it ever-present on your bed, you don’t realize how long its been since it went away. It wasn’t until I was actively looking for it that I realized it’s clearly been misplaced. For in the past few years, I’ve moved from dorms to apartments to a childhood bedroom to crashing on a sofa and now all the way across the world to a foreign state. There’s been so much movement and haste, with constant advice on how to not look back and fixate, that I didn’t notice how long it’s been since I’ve seen that tattered little face. The beady eyes that have watched me through every phase, velvety fur that feels like the grass on which we used to play, warm smell of the breakfast table set on a Sunday and…
And I know there was more but is it possible to feel nostalgic for memories that themselves have gone stale?
Is it possible to feel the heroic triumph of coming home if you no longer remember the way?
Can I claim to be contrite for not taking enough pictures throughout your life if I can’t even recall what moment I’m trying to visualize?
I know there was more to you than the four sweaters hanging in new closets and the number plates hammered into the shed and the glass bowls you’d smoke late into the night – but too much mundane clutter has taken over instead and the essence of your being is starting to dissipate so I no longer have any say over when I get to return home, for now that the bear has been misplaced, that is out of my control. But turns out that nostalgia is no longer rooted in a destination for continuing to meander aimlessly without even knowing what you’re looking for really, is enough for the soul to still deflate.