North Carolina, pt. 1

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I don't know the meaning of life and at 22, I don't think I am supposed to.  People forget my age, and sometimes people forget a lot of things.  I forget my own story sometimes, fabricating new ones as I go alone.  Hell, I forget my own age every once in a while; but from bouncers to ex-boyfriends, you're always trying to impress someone the farther you can detach the essential "you" from yourself. Maybe that was my apprehension about going home for my brother's wedding.  And by "going home", I meant to a place I've never been before.  Born in Indiana, raised in a handful of states, settled in Pennsylvania, home for me is anything cast-iron, anything coal-mined and steel-forged. In California, the mecca of starry-eyed wanderlusters call anything that's remotely in the direction of their birthplace home.  For me, anything pointing due East is homespun for me.  Where I know they have iceberg lettuce for salads, ranch as a side for fries, and an unapologetic sense of beliefs when it comes to God and football.  I bought the roundtrip tickets through Southwest, into Philly and out of Raleigh. It's nearly impossible to pack for summers, because you have to factor in degrees.  Those in Fahrenheit and those in conveyance to your family.  North Carolina in the peak of June was swampy and suffocating, my mother going as far as to say the wedding was held in a mausoleum.  But, I wanted to dress in degrees of formality.  It was a wedding, after all.  And even though I knew I would regret it, I packed one pair of shorts and tried to convince my relatives I was beyond being comfortable, that the two degrees I received at 20 from a private school constituted a level of Victorian modesty that I did not want to disobey.  I packed a beat-up, broken-stitched Louis Vuitton carryall and kissed the family I hand-picked myself in California, got on a plane to meet people who never really made me feel welcomed. Family is an odd concept to me, foreign and awkward on the tongue, those that have it won't understand my impossible anxiety for bloodline connections.  Every family has mythology, stories retold as fable or warning, passed down to give a composite of the generation before them.  For me, it has always been a reproachful loathing for any contact with her side of the family, the Bishops.  Without any wealth or success in the family, each Bishop has become a Freudian archetype of some sort or the other--the Town Drunk was my grandfather, the Pill Addict my aunt, the First Witch Burned in Salem is a distant relative, looming her cursed fate on us all, giving us reason to believe the innate defects of the blood ties we hold.  And being content in them, also. There has always been distance between my mother and her family, the extent of it going back nearly thirty years.  She has been estranged from one sibling or another throughout all of my siblings lives and it would not be fair to her to give the whole account of their tension.   But, in any rate, it is no secret I say, "I come from a small family, only five of us left," to strangers.  It doesn't invoke questions, doesn't stir the mind to what kind of reasons we aren't nuclear.   The relatives that would be there I hadn't seen in ten years, not since my uncle returned from Afghanistan for the first and last time.  Not since I was small and pudgy, not out and uncomfortable in my own body.  And never have I received a kiss from them, a card on my birthday, a well wishing phone call when I went to Italy or California.  In short, they were all strangers to me.  I did the math and I shared perhaps 8 chromosomal pairs with them and that was enough to decide we hardly would have anything in common when I met up with them in North Carolina. But first, I went to Philadelphia, via Houston.  Time is tricky when it's transcontinental, and you never know if you're ready for bed or just in time for dinner.  In Houston, I sat on the floor and charged my phone, sat on my luggage and rested my head in my hands.  Nothing worthwhile, I waited with some coffee, trying to maintain a positive mindset.  Trying to not be too excited to see my closest friend, who was my date for the wedding.