“Try being your own friend”
word by Annie Rubin
colour by Kosisochukwu Nnebe
“Try being your own friend.”
It was an exhausting job; he shook his head and hung up the phone.
The plane ride had felt long and treacherous, with each dip of the wing he was certain they would nose dive through the sky, be compelled to grab for their yellow life vests stored either directly beneath the seat or above you in the overhead compartment.
He would search frantically for the flight attendants out of the corner of his eye, secure. If they were still passing through the aisles with a variety of drinks and Skymall paraphernalia, he’d have no reason to panic.
The streets were shimmering with a blue-black slickness as he marched with conviction in the direction of the hotel.
The streetlights were flickering in and out of view. There was an unsettling echo of footsteps that he couldn’t swear were his own. Perhaps this was part of the adventure. Perhaps he was en route to be mugged. In either scenario, he found it best to focus his gaze on the road ahead, calculating the distance between fear and safety. Two hundred meters, now one-ninety…
In the lobby, he smoothed the lapel of his suit. It was one action in a whirlwind of unfamiliarity that brought him a moment closer to home. He couldn’t understand the startling sense of discomfort he experienced, surrounded in the idiosyncrasies of this place. The country felt oddly reminiscent of something he’d seen once in a dream, or maybe it was just that things felt so cartoonishly similar to images he’d stared at for months in preparation for the journey.
This recognition was stained by the fact that everything was just vaguely different than what he was used to. The water faucets, the scent of the stagnant air, the accents, of course a language he had never learned as his own.
Should this culture have been a piece of him, imparted by nature, somehow inherent in his blood? He wandered into a pizza joint out of habit or homesickness.
This was not his home. This did not remind him of the meals cooked by his grandmother; this was nothing reminiscent of his college chants or practiced habits or the inside jokes, memories collected into phrases and images that composed his true identity.
Maybe he was searching for something profound; maybe he wanted inspiration—confirmation that he had a home, a country, a culture that reflected his unique self. Instead, he was left in a state of flux: what was truly his? The room had fresh floral wallpaper and he felt nostalgic for a place that had until now, never truly understood him.
From the author: “I was inspired by the juxtaposition of the poised human look and the fragility of nature reflected in the vibrancy of the flowers. This led me to question identity, especially how to maintain a sense of self against a backdrop of an ever-fluid environment. The concept of identity raises questions about the significance of cultural background, and exposure, where the protagonist explores his familial history by visiting the country where his family comes from, realizing that he has little to no connection with a place he has never been, himself.”