Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Memphis is Like

Imagine that you are a young woman in the prime of your life. You have this boyfriend; he is sexy and smart and fun to be around, mostly. As soon as you met, he opened himself up to you and you could see all this amazing potential. He could be great, and you could be great by his side. The two of you have chemistry. There's just something about him that feels right to you.

You even like a lot of his friends. They're interesting and sharp and when you all hang out together, you feel so at home. You know that if you were dating some other guy, some Joe Schmoe from the office, you would never have found friends this cool. They introduce you to all this great music and they know all the best places to hear it. There's not a hole-in-the-wall or greasy spoon they haven't tried and judged, and you revel in the fruits of their searching.

He even cooks. He can make all kinds of things, but he has one dish, let's say barbecue, that is really special--the best you've ever had. Sure, maybe sometimes he gets in a barbecue rut, but even then, you have to admit it's good. It's what you want him to make when friends come over, and it's what you crave when you have to be apart.

But this guy, he has some issues. For a while you can overlook the problems--no one's perfect, right? So he's a little moody. A little bit of a slob around the house. The apartment you now share is starting to look a little shabby, especially when you compare it to your friends' places. Still, its better than what you could afford if you weren't with him. And really, you could let all of that go, every bit of it, if it weren't for this anger thing that just seems to be getting worse with every passing day.

At first you only hear about it. There's a story of how he lost it with some guy at a bar, or the office smartass. Then there will be a day now and then when he seems touchy, quick to raise his voice. After a while, it gets harder to relax around him. You're always wondering, in the back of your mind, when he's going to blow. And finally one day, it happens--he directs the full force of his anger at you. You probably didn't even do anything, just minding your own business when suddenly, Bam! He's in your face, screaming about nothing you did, and then the unthinkable happens, and he hits you.

You are stunned. Somehow, even though you knew it was happening all around you, you cannot believe this has hit home. You think about leaving, but it's so hard to wrap your mind around all the things you will lose. And even though it makes you hate yourself a little bit, you still love him. You can't forget all the good times, all the things you only feel when you're with him. You know that you won't get to keep his friends. Sure, you'll stay in touch, but it can never be the same. And you won't be able to go to the old hangouts--they're his territory. You imagine never tasting his cooking again--where will you get babrbecue that good? You look at other apartments and think of how you could fix them up, make them your own, and it all seems great, but then you go home and all your stuff is there, and your good memories, and it makes you angry that he has done this.

Why should you have to leave? Why can't he get himself together, why can't all those things you love about him be the whole story, why can't he see how perfect things would be if he would just deal with his problems? But in the end, you know that he won't. You know that you have to go. And you know, already, that you will never get over the feeling that he was the one, that it really was meant to be between the two of you, but he ruined it, and you just can't forgive him for that. You will never stop feeling angry about what could have been, the waste of it, the frustrating clarity of your vision of the man he could have chosen to become. You're young, you'll meet someone else, but you know there's some small part of yourself that you won't be able to give again, because you never got it back.

That is exactly what Memphis is like.

20 comments:

Secret Agent Mom said...

And he's not even that attractive!

Stacey Greenberg said...

i don't like this one bit.

JodieMo said...

I don't think anyone has so aptly described Memphis before. It's really quite perfect and I think you have to leave Memphis to understand it completely. I know that since we left, we have tried to find replacements for all of those things we miss; friends, bar-b-q, music, a great place to hang out at 4 in the morning. But we have never seemed to be able to fill the gap. The people aren't quite cool enough, the music has no soul, the all night bar doesn't have beer in dixie cups, and the bar-b-q sucks. The bar-b-q is the toughest part.

Elizabeth Alley said...

You totally nailed it.

Stacey Greenberg said...

i see memphis as the elementary school boyfriend that you didn't think much of, but when he grew up, he was awesome.

memphis just isn't all the way grown up yet.

Sassy Molassy said...

I could only agree with that analogy if the elementary school boyfriend had a habit of stealing your stuff and knocking you down on the playground. maybe he'll outgrow those impulses, but not if he doesn't have the resources to get help for his problems.

Not being grown up doesn't bother me. Ranking in the top 2-10 on every single violent crime list bothers me.

warren said...

Memphis is the fat little kid from the dysfunctional family called America.

I got assaulted twice (both strong-arm robberies) by his seemingly nice brother (San) Jose, and once by his other bro Francisco (aka "city of love"), of all places in the park, in front of witnesses.

Sean L said...

wow. When people have asked me over the years what it was like living in Memphis, I could never really answer. I still can't fit how I feel in a conversation-friendly sound bite, but this blog sure helps.

Blaine Morgan said...

Although we miss Memphis terribly, we will never move back and raise our children there. It's such a shame, too because it really is a cool town and I enjoyed a wonderful childhood growing up in East Memphis. I think you nailed it with your description, and it makes me a little sad that I broke up with that guy.

Elizabeth Alley said...

Also, he never apologized.

Stacey Greenberg said...

lists and rankings are stupid and don't tell the whole story. look at the zoo--it's rated #1 on trip advisor.

Sweet Sassy Molassy said...

Well...yeah. That's because it's a really good zoo. Trip advisor doesn't know it's cutting down your forest, they just know that people like to visit it and many list it as a highlight of their trip here.

Sweet Sassy Molassy said...

Plus, I'm talking about mathematical realities here. Our crime stats are copletely beyond reason. That's not a subjective judgement, it's the cold hard facts.

warren said...

Although disturbing at face value, I find the statistic to be very nonspecific and therefore misleading. Its intent is alarmist, as it doesn't take into account any meaningful demographic info, nor the fact that some areas (the poor areas) of Memphis experience way more crime than other areas. It also does not address that violent crimes have actually gone down in Memphis. I think that this statistic should only freak someone out if they are an African-American male teenager/young adult, which happens to be the demographic that overwhelmingly comprises the population of violent crime victims (in the case of Memphis, as well as the #1 violent city Detroit).

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emily said...

wow, well said!

I'm one of the lucky ones who met someone else after our break-up. He's sort of dorky, but he lives on the beach, so I gave him a little more time. He grew on me.

But he doesn't even know how to MICROWAVE barbecue. So I'm only unfaithful when I eat.

Dorothy said...

Hi girl,
I'm a born & raised Memphian (circa 1964) who had a trist starting in 1990 with a fun beach guy in San Diego...fooled around & fell in love. Came back to see my beloved Mtown, lived there again from 2007-2008 at our old Midtown mansion on Washington & East Parkway, my childhood home. Wow what a difference...where was the Camelot existence of my youth? Where was the Memphis I knew? There remain remnants, thank God. But where was the Seesel's boy who delivered our groceries? lol...Anyway...I love and always will love & come back to Memphis, my true home....my soul lives there. The tornadoes, the mosquitoes, the humidity...you gotta love it. J/K hey it's my roots, I can bash it! ;) I have a love affair with Mtown that will never end. Too many memories, the cool guy singing Ole Man River at Tom Lee Park on the 4th of July, Corky's drive-thru, the Overton Park Shell summer concerts, Graceland, Beale Street, the old curb market, Sears Crosstown, Mud Island, Memphis in May...the list goes on...there's just no place like it. Earthy, motherly, urban, classic, artsy fartsy, musical, rock n roll heaven, blues giant, barbecue n great food central, cultural mecca...and the best people on the planet. But I felt a little uneasy there, a little afraid, unlike the safe feelings I always had there growing up...a different vibe.

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All Adither said...

I've never been to Memphis. But I read your description raptly. Excellent writing.

Brent Diggs said...

Yeah, that's pretty much it.