There are places I have been and places I have lived to which I have grown particularly attached. There are also those to which I have not. I have never grown attached to Southern California. I love my friends, I love my local pub, I love being able to partake in fine dining at any hour. But when I leave it, I do not miss it. Not the place itself. I could never come back and I would not think twice about it.
Leaving Northern Ireland has never been easy. Each time I have departed, I have left an increasingly larger chunk of my heart on the airport runway. When I left Belfast this time, I am fairly certain it retained a piece of my soul I cannot get back until I return. And then perhaps I'll sew it to myself like Peter Pan wrangling his shadow. I suspect it would make no difference. It'd find a way to sever itself from me and stay behind. It'd creep away while I slept.
It's hard to explain such attachment to a place--why some patches of ground seem to grasp us by the guts and anchor us down. And then leaving feels like spilling our insides on that holy stretch of land, rendering us emptier, hollow and unsatisfied, anywhere else.
I can recite the explanations I give to anyone who asks why on earth I would choose to spend my time in Belfast: The people are wonderful, the city is beautiful, everyone sings when they drink. There's just no fully capturing that feeling of being fully bound from the inside out to some specific spot.
Home, we call it. How do you describe home? It is not simply where you live. It's some sorcery, some mystic force that turns your bones and your stomach to lead when you try to escape.
Home is where the heart is, they say--a monstrous but accurate cliché--and if the heart is in fact to blame, well, sometimes the heart inexplicably chooses to reside far, far away. So it goes.