Sometimes when I'm around other people I play a game with myself called "If People Were Cities, Which City Would They Be?". Some people have suburbs in their eyes. Some people inhale sunlight, exhale beach breeze. There are subway people, there are downtown people, there are gridlock traffic people and country club people and Empire State Building people. Everyone has their own city because of the weather forecast of their outrage over a D+ on a math test, and because of their morning commute, and because of the way they rain, or sometimes, the way they pour.
I saw a man once that was so Topeka, Kansas that his hair was falling out.
I saw a woman dressed in red, and I've never seen New Orleans before in my life but there she was: New Orleans, as plain as tar. No Mardi Gras, no masks, just New Orleans on a regular Thursday somewhere in Salt Lake City. It's funny how something so big can look so small, city within a city, sitting on a bench at the bus stop; New Orleans, sipping her coffee.
No one is ever like the place they grew up in. Emily should be California, but she's Detroit. Not hollowed-out, eaten-up, burned-down Detroit, not hungry Detroit, but art district Detroit, and her hair would be the flag in the city hall. She's Detroit for the film in her camera, and for the way she walks.
I have a friend who is just like Anchorage. That's Alaska. Cloudy skies, but the kind that clear. Anchorage, Alaska is more forgiving than we gave it credit for. Who knew? Anchorage, and it's because his shoulders are Anchorage and his voice is Anchorage, and you think you're Juneau? I don't care about Juneau, you're Anchorage, because sometimes we have to force you to speak. Sometimes we don't.
Blond and a hundred feet tall, Addy Baird is somewhere southern. Atlanta, Georgia. Houston, Texas. All I know is that the people talk loud. She uses her hands when she talks.
I have another friend who is Florida. Tallahassee, maybe. Orlando. I don't know the difference, I just know that he's Florida because of his driving habits. He has the eyelashes of a Floridian. He's nicer than he should be, and that's Florida for you. Florida shoreline, Florida rain; I think there's even a certain shape like Florida in his posture.
I'm friends with Philadelphia, too. She's the Fairmount part up north, every color you can think of. Collarbones, freckles, boots; they all mean the same thing: Philadelphia. She wanders off, she makes lists. She has neat handwriting.
I've met Alpine, Utah. I'm friends with her. She has blond hair and high standards but we run out of things to talk about. I said "hell" once and I don't think Alpine, Utah has ever forgiven me for it.
I've got a brother in the Philippines and that's funny because he's Chicago. He's Chicago in the Philippines, born and raised in Utah County. Long legs, big vocabulary. Chicago.
My mother is Boulder, Colorado. She wakes up early every morning. She bakes bread for you, she knows everything, she wants a light blue car.
My father is Helena, Montana. I don't know. I can just tell.
There's a boy that's Albuquerque, indecent sometimes, blue-skyed and red-haired, he digs his elbows in. Albuquerque wants everything in the whole entire universe.
The girl who used to be my best friend is Reno, Nevada. I'm not going to elaborate on that one.
I know everyone. I know every city.
I know Rochester and San Antonio and Burbank and Wichita.
Strangers, I love you. Strangers, you're the biggest cities in the world.
Bri, you're Omaha, Nebraska. It's the color of your hair.
Jacob, you're Mitchell, South Dakota, ankle-bearing and indifferent, I hear no one wants to live in Mitchell. Okay, okay, everyone sort of wants to live in Mitchell.
Rachel, you're Sugar City, Idaho. Just listen to the sound of it. Sugar City: pastel sky, and I'm sorry that I'm not more familiar with it.
And another Rachel, I think you might be Astoria, Oregon; it's up north on the coast, and it's lovely there.
Juliana, you're Jersey City.
Roah, you're Manhattan, you're all of it; you've got the slums and the skyscrapers, you've got street vendors, and you've got the places where people walk across bridges with shiny shoes on their feet.
Jonah, you're Boston, you know why: the circles under your eyes, your wrists, you're smart and you walk like you're late for something. Everything.
Austin, you're Mesa, Arizona. Other Austin, you're Phoenix, Arizona. I guess it's the name.
Collin, you're Providence, Rhode Island and I'm sorry if that's not accurate. It's this thing you do with your eyebrows. I'm not a bitch.
Ben, you're Baja, California. It's almost Mexico. You don't have to wear your shoes there, or so I hear.
Autumn, you're Auburn, Maine (I think). I asked around. I like your clothes.
Köbi, I hear you're Jackson, Mississippi. Or Casper, Wyoming. There was some dispute.
Jesse, welcome to Phoenix, Arizona, and the weather is fine.
Morgan, you're Cambridge, Massachusetts. The glasses gave you away. We like you. That surprised us all.
Brady, MESQUITE; YOU'RE MESQUITE!
Brendon, you're Honolulu, Hawaii. Aloha.
Cara, you're Charleston, West Virginia but maybe that's who you were three years ago. I haven't been around much. You've got such long legs, you were so mean.
Okay, okay, let me take a breath. I have some apologizing to do. This was probably a bad thing that I just did.
I've been all over the States, I've seen everything, I've seen everyone. You're a tourist trap, you're a ghetto, you're a street sign and a city capital.
I want you to know that I'm not happy just sitting on the pavement. I'm not happy just visiting the museums. I take the bus, I have a city library card. I'm a native. Wherever you are, I'm a native. I belong here.
Five Things That I Want to Apologize For:
1. I'm sorry if you read this whole thing. Really, really sorry.
2. I'm sorry if this is about you.
3. I'm sorry if this isn't about you.
4. I'm sorry if I don't know you.
5. This isn't everyone I know, or everyone I love, or everyone I hate. Some people are cities. Some aren't, I guess. Sorry, sorry, strangers and loved ones, the ones I didn't add but should have, the ones who I hope will never see this; I didn't mean to offend you, I meant to say that I like to travel.
One Thing That I Will Not Apologize For:
1. I'm not sorry for what city I gave you. You want your own city? Write your own post.
This has been The Devastation Diaries.