A Tale of Two Cities.
This is the interstate highway in the heart of Atlanta which separates the city in two - the east and the west. Interestingly, this humongous 16 lane highway also decouples the past and present of my time here. I now live (and work) on the east side of the highway, but my entire grad school life was spent on the west side.
This is the apartment I last stayed before I moved to the east.
And this is the picture I took on my last day here, while I was in the middle of moving out.
It was June 7, it was POURING and I was mentally, emotionally and physically burnt-out. Physically - from scrubbing the apartment clean, from moving boxes and furniture and from walking up and down the stairway endlessly. Emotionally - from grappling with all the what-ifs that crawl rent-free in your head with anxiety, and from having to see off one friend after another as they moved on to what I then thought were greener pastures. And mentally - from sitting through (what seemed like) never-ending and very humbling interview loops, and from working (solo) on a research project whose paper deadline loomed near. If you see my pictures from those couple of months I look unusually exhausted (but am always smiling 🙂).
The intensity of my exhaustion only hit me, as I pulled, one last time, the
curtains blinds on of the house and found a gaping dark space staring back at me in a monotonous quietude. This was otherwise a bright, airy and beautiful house, my (sweet) roommate and I had made our home. In the mere 10 months that I stayed here, the house had taken so much away from me but had also given me so much.
I have not visited that area ever since. Partly because it’s sort of faraway to walk, partly because there is nothing to do there, but partly also because I am afraid what cocktail of emotions might come flooding to me when I see the place. That house has seen multiple personal and professional upheavals, but also a large chunk of mundane routine. Resounding laughter and muffled tears reverberate in harmony when I think about the place. And hence, I do not know what (how?) I would really feel if I visit the area.
Now that I live on the other side of the highway, the past (the west) seems to dwell in a different city altogether - with a life and memories of its own, waiting to be showcased like an archive reel to whoever (read : me) shows interest. I do go for long walks in the campus (which is mostly on the east) and often wonder what I would find if I do end up going there.
Will I find the 2020-21 academic year Rohit there in the apartment? What will I say when I meet him? Or will only he have something (everything) to say to me? I’d probably tell him that most of his what-ifs will turn out to be true (full marks for self-awareness). But I’d tell him that he is going to absolutely love his new workplace. That the paper he’s working on will indeed get accepted and published :). And that there will be so much exciting travel to look forward to. Or probably I’d just tell him that he’s gonna be fine. Because nobody likes spoilers, no?
Or maybe I would not find Rohit home…Maybe he’d be sprinting across the corridors of the building, to make it to 628 quickly, because he had the audacity to not wear any layers in 5 degrees (celcius, always celcius). Or maybe he’d be in 219, because he just had to quell the swelling anxiety with someone’s calming presence while solving assignments.
Or maybe he’d have crossed over to the east, if only for a short while, while on a walk to the gorgeous GT campus, which he can never get enough of. And maybe I would cross paths with him as I head back to the east from the west and him vice-versa, and for that brief moment the two cities would become one. :)