I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it in the air.
I grew up in Greenville, SC. For those who don’t know, Greenville is a beautiful town in the upstate of South Carolina, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I loved growing up there. It was big enough to feel like I grew up somewhere substantial but small enough to make people feel like they have to be nice to each other.
I left home 21 years ago to go to college in Charleston, SC, and the moment I stepped foot there I knew I was someplace special. I was born down there so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But the air, the air was different. It was thick and humid and smelled like the sea. It felt exciting and dangerous. Greenville was in my rearview mirror and aside from one summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year, I never moved back.
After Charleston was Montgomery, AL for graduate school at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. I had a cute little apartment that was very homey but Montgomery was a pitstop. It had a two year time limit. Yes the rent was cheap and the Olive Room was fun but not enough to keep me around. I left the morning after I graduated and, in typical 24 year old fashion, I left my parents to clean up the apartment.
I had a girlfriend soon to be fiancé in California and that’s where I was heading next. Irvine to be exact. And it was beautiful. You could see snow capped mountains outside of our bedroom window. On the weekends we would drive down to Laguna Beach. I would marvel at the beauty west coast of our country. But there was something missing. The only coffee shops were in strip malls. The grocery stores sold liquor. And the air, the air felt…different. Like something was missing. What was it?
One night in Memphis answered that question.
When my fiancé got an agent in New York City we decided to move back east. We packed up our Toyota Camry and set out. We spent a night at a hotel in Arizona on Route 66. We stopped over in Santa Fe. But when we crossed the Mississippi River and got out of the car at our Days Inn- I felt it. The humidity. It was like the air wrapped its arms around me and I knew back east was where I supposed to be.
The next ten years were in Brooklyn. Same house, same apartment. While it was close, it never felt like home. I tried as hard as I could. Two of my sisters moved there. We would have pancake Sundays. I would listen to bluegrass on Pandora to try and trick me into feeling it, but then I would see all the Yankee jerseys and the Mets caps… I would hear Frank Sinatra in the old Italian Coffee shop near my house… and I would see people who felt so at home in New York that nothing in the world could get them to leave.
I knew that wasn’t me.
So I got the chance to go teach for a semester at my alma mater down in Charleston and that turned into three years. I tried my hardest to put down roots there but it wasn’t meant to be. So I tried Atlanta. And the air, the air felt wrong again. It was hot but in a bad way. Like it was choking me and there was no where to go. Then the there was the traffic. Then there was the cancer. Then I realized that life was too short to live somewhere that didn’t make me happy.
During those 21 years I would visit Greenville on the reg. To see my parents, to see my sister. Adam Knight and I would bring shows and they would do well. When I got to Charleston I would come up once a month and spend the night. Walk around downtown. Sit in the field behind my parents house. When Jaimie and I moved to Atlanta we started coming more and more. Sometimes just for the day.
We would sit in Reedy River Park. We would have coffee at Coffee Underground. We would feel so happy.
That’s when the jokes started.
Davey: We should move here, ha ha ha.
Jaimie: That could be fun in a couple of years. Ha ha ha
Then the bridge in Atlanta collapsed.
Then Jaimie was sitting in traffic for an hour and fifteen minutes to go seven miles.
That’s when the jokes continued.
Davey: Traffic isn’t that bad in Greenville, ha ha ha.
Jaimie: Let’s do it! Ha ha ha
Then Jaimie’s boss died.
Then the business closed over night and she lost her job.
Then the jokes got less funny.
Davey: It’s like the universe is telling us to leave. Ha. Ha.
Jaimie: I want to move to Greenville.
Davey: You do? Like for real? Not like ha/
Davey: I do too. Is that crazy??
Jaimie: Why is moving somewhere we love crazy?
Davey: But my treatments.
Jaimie: We’ll drive back for them.
Davey: It’s not that far.
Jaimie: It’s not that far.
So two weeks ago we came up and found an apartment. My parents drove down and we packed up our stuff. And just like that, twenty-one years later, I live in Greenville again.
Yesterday morning I was having coffee on the little deck of our apartment. As I sat there I was like, the air, the air, what is that feeling?
I thought about it for a minute before it dawned on me.
The air felt like home.