I’ve been rewriting this essay i composed in the fervor of cultural shock last summer about the multifarious crises of identity endemic of the phenomenon of an expat repatriating to his country. I name the state i was in with an adjective because the lion’s share of recognitions I suffered upon returning were not of my own ineptness or maligned social habits, but rather the obvious shock everyone else in that country (i.e. this country) seemed to be suffering from.
The subtle niceties seemed unnecessary, the etiquette insidious. My mother’s house, filled with pictures of her (recently deceased) mother and family which had long ceased to exist represented the structure of my mother’s psyche; a model that was synecdoche to the kind of humanity I was choosing to live amidst. And what kind of people were these? Repressed, individualistic in an old, impractical way. Inexorably sentimental and convinced of the superiority of linear identity, of always returning to the same versions of oneself, the same old story: the King sent his son away; he’s gone, but he’s coming back that old boy, he’s coming back to take revenge on the big bad Tyrant. Behold, he’s returned and he’s strong enough to win. I always knew that child would take his rightful place. But the new King has a child who is sent away again by the power of that throne which is really the center of the cycle of life and death…
In a word, I’d returned to the Empire of the Oedipal, and I seemed to be the only free mind here. But I wasn’t an idiot. I reneged the temptation to solipsism by assuming that this home of mine is far too clever to not have a place for this sort of blemish on the psychological landscape, a trail forged by other wacko artists whose foray back into this field of mechanical people was in all likelihood already eaten up, branded and redistributed by the advertising sector of a dollop of corporate presses and other visually syndicated media.
But this metanarrative became my identity; one who will have been nothing more than a remembrance of people who’ve passed, one who was free to float on with (mostly) unmeditated plans for the future, one not responsible for one’s own story, because it will inevitably become something that’s been done before. It’s a little disappointing to know how much of last summer I let go by without making any headway because I was afraid that any progress made wouldn’t be novel enough for “me.” I had my metaphysical thumb stuck out, hitchhiking the psychohistorical current for a lift to somewhere more fascinating. Somehow I landed in New York.
But what I’m looking to resurrect while rewriting that Return for an immodest new zine called BTLG is the non-unitary, potent, radically liberated pathos I enjoyed and suffered those first few nights back in the USA, after I sobered up, but before I stopped not believing the land I was seeing, because it allowed me to exist as pure thoughts and emotions, because the imago formed during this time had neither my past in Vietnam nor the future in the States in mind; my retention and protention were futile by fiat, and I liked it, because somehow (it seemed that) to exist out of common narrative was to exist out of time.