At the end of 2013, I wrote what I thought was my ultimate love letter to DC, filled with the moments that had sustained me during my struggle with a life-threatening illness. It was a thank you to the city I’d lived in for over two decades, yet I also suspected, at the time, that it might be a farewell – not because I was losing that struggle, but because I thought I was moving. Of course, I was incorrect, life being a lesson in derailment and the power of creative disruption. My DC in 2013 turned out to be the penultimate love letter, and while I spent most of 2014 investigating another city, by the end of that year I was back where I started.
So here we are. DC, you still have me. And yet, the time to leave our beloved site has come to pass. So I find myself writing another love letter, one that’s slightly bittersweet. But don’t worry. I always rally by the end.
If there’s any lesson I’ve learned over the past three years of incredible life change and regeneration, it’s this: the story never ends. You may think you have come to the end of your journey, but it’s only a chapter, or an act in a play that continues on and on. Just as cities never stop evolving, never stop rising, only to fall, and rise again. If not in actuality, then in the mind.
Maybe that’s why there are so many discarded drafts of my Why I (Still) Love DC. They litter my mind, my desk, my laptop, piling up like sediment in an archeological site. Rather as my discarded selves litter the city itself, so many experiences, haunting this corner and then the next. I feel like Scheherazade, and worry that if I ever finish the tale, I’ll lose my head.
I began to wonder if all the difficulty writing it meant that I no longer loved DC the way I used to, and frankly, yes, it’s true. But isn’t that as it should be, after so many years? Love’s not an ever-fixed mark, no matter what Shakespeare said. He knew better, anyway. Love must change – always. Otherwise, it calcifies, and your city crumbles into dust.
There’s a narrative to my love story that’s already established here in other pieces at We Love DC. I moved here for the architecture. The cherry blossoms. The subculture politicos ignore. The fact that it wasn’t New York or Boston, the other cities which courted me, but provided an escape from my New England youth. That DC was supposed to be just a way station on the way to London. That I didn’t leave, because I unexpectedly fell in love, with its music scene, with its theaters and a thriving community of artists. Bought a house, brought it back to life. That was the first act. In another act, life went haywire. My heart stopped several times. I regenerated in many ways, but haunted my old life in others. I was poised to escape, but grounded in limbo. I wasn’t as certain about my love anymore.
We’ll talk about that chapter another time, somewhere else.
I could tell you about all my other selves wandering DC. Continue reading