Thursday, October 28, 2004
The Annual Question

The festival director gave it to me, the question she asks every year: "So when are you moving here?"

The unspoken final clause in the question is "... so you can come work at the Institute full time?"

I hate that question. I enjoy it, too -- it's nice to know that one is appreciated so much that there are job offers on the table -- but it's so hard to answer. I have to admit that there's a small part of my mind that thinks a steady paycheck would be awfully nice, even if only for a year or so... I could probably swing $24K a year, which would provide a reasonably comfortable life for a twenty-something woman in this town. I could have a nice apartment, I could get a different car, I could finally afford a laptop... so many things I could do. And I'd be doing it while doing a job I could reasonably expect to like, a job that would probably further my career (even if only in a small way), in a field I love (even if in not quite my ideal capacity.) And the only price is, I have to live in this town to do it. Sounds like a great deal, yes?

The problem is, I hate this town. As it happens, I have some good reasons for hating this town; I lived here for something like two-and-a-half years (with a break in there somewhere) during one of the more difficult periods of my life. A lot of bad shit went down in this town, and I have a lot of intense memories attached to a great many places here.

I saw my first dead body in this town; it belonged to the man I consider to be my first step-father. Although we lived in the same house, I hadn't seen him for a long time... I had locked myself in my room and refused to come out when he was around. Anyone who knows me well will know that I must have had a damn good reason, because I don't hold grudges easily... and I did indeed have a damn good reason; many of them, in fact. His funeral was the first time I'd seen his face in a number of months. At that funeral I saw my little step-brother Travis for the last time (sometimes I still wonder where he is, how he's doing), and then I went home and fed soup to my mother and tried to brush the tangles and a little dried blood out of her hair. She probably doesn't remember that. I was sixteen at the time.

It wasn't all bad. I fell in love for the first time in this town, and had my first kiss here. But both he and I wanted nothing but to leave (preferrably together). The point is, I could not possibly live here happily full time. Returning to this town from Memphis would be like traveling even further back into my own personal history, and into a particularly painful time. Apart from my annual quietly-angst-ridden visits to work this festival, I am done with this place.

I can hardly explain all that to the festival director, though... she barely has time to sit and ask, much less listen to the full answer. And I always worry that telling these stories sounds to others like a plea for sympathy, which is the LAST thing I'm looking for. Even when it all happened I couldn't stomach the pity of others. I remember my first day back at school after my step-father's death; all of the teachers and a few students had quiet, sympathetic platitudes for me. They'd all read of the accident in the newspaper, although none of them could know the real scope of the story behind it, and how the accident was a tragic but much-needed relief for me. The guy who was on the other side of that first love and first kiss was the only one who dared to cross the sentimental divide that day, saying to me, "I heard he got run over by a train." I appreciated that a lot more than the card signed by all the kids who could barely remember my name, much less have any real feelings toward me or my situation.

So, my answer this year is the same as the previous two years: I love this festival, but I will not be moving here to work for the Institute. There are some demands that not even film can make upon me.
6:59 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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