I’ve grown to know places like people. Should I be patient enough to experience a place during all four seasons, only then may I truly get a grasp on what said place’s value is to me. I think of this often–how I recurrently pick and choose what certain places mean to me, as a means of defining my own self. Most particularly difficult place of all was ironically the one I’d spent the most time in. I learned that you shouldn’t rush claiming home, but you also can’t deny it; it molds you.
The truth is, the reason I felt reluctant to claim Hijaz as my own is because it is the home that never loved me back. I often lost Hijaz and traced the parts of it in my spine to find my way back home. Hijaz wasn’t easy to lose, though. There were nights where I’d bleach Jeddah off my skin, and days full of removing the scent of the red sea from my clothes. Yet there would somehow always be some hints of it in the morning. I slowly but surely learned that it is a part and parcel of me. Funny enough, I was only able to realize this after my last visit to Jeddah over winter break. It made me realize how much I had missed the heat of its summers, despite all the heatstrokes it had given me throughout the years. It made me see that I don’t want to fall in love under a different sky; that I don’t want my youth’s deathbed to be anywhere but by Jeddah’s shores, anywhere but somewhere in the city’s bends that I have known for my whole life. Yet I realize that writing this feels like a one-sided love letter to the city that never quite loved me back–the city that I could only love from a distance.
I once overheard someone describe home as a place where your body is–but I disagree. Home is where the date palm is; it’s where you can carelessly spill words in your dialect without having to worry about people understanding you. Home is a feeling. I know it when I feel it, and I know it most when I don’t.
Home is neither here nor quite there. I’ve been home, but there are rooms in my house that I’ve never truly set foot in. Corners in Jeddah that I have yet to discover. Beaches in this city whose sand grains I know like the back of my hand. Hijaz nourishes me and I can only hope it knows how grateful I am–even if it is unrequited love.