TALES OF A PROFESSIONAL FOREIGNER
BY DAVE MANGENE
…If there is anything I learned from this first trip down to the spooky crossroads, the answer to that question is a resounding “NO!”
No. I. Can. Never. Go. Home. Again.
And neither can you.
But why not, you ask? What is wrong with going back to your hometown and starting over again?
As far as I can see, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Nothing at all. But to ask the question in such a way, to frame it in terms of wrong or right is to miss the point entirely. While I was wallowing away, sputtering and paranoid, knee deep in my own personal crisis, on my knees at the crossroads and looking for a way out, I lay awake one entire night, sweating lightly and staring a hole into my ceiling, until, just as the sun wearily began to peak in and the birdies started singing, it finally dawned on me:
I can’t go home because I have no home.
I never had a home. And I will never have a home. Home, as a concept, as a philosophy, as a belief system, is, for a professional foreigner like me, an illusion.
Melodramatic, I know. And before you write me off as a miserably depressed guy, please just hear me out. When I was at my darkest moment, down there with my demons speaking softly to me, in the wee hours of the night, wide awake, the realization that I don’t have a home was not a sad and pathetic discovery.
On the contrary, my discovery was a liberation.
As the legend goes, bluesman Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and made a deal with the Devil. Or he made a deal with the Lord. Either way, his soul was at stake and he fell to his knees to negotiate a way out of whatever mess he was in. Now, just like Robert Johnson and every single one of you dear readers, I was doing the same and it could have either been my Devil or my Lord that whispered some unforgettably precious words to me that night:
“David…there is no such thing as home…”
I am not a religious man, and I tend to believe the artist Keb’Mo when he sings, “I went down to the crossroads and there ain’t no devil down there…” But, on my grandmother’s grave, I swear… somebody was speaking to me that night. I could hear him, or her:
“David…there’s no such thing as home…”
When my mother and father flew with me on an airplane, just eight short days after my birth, and brought me to a new, faraway place, our new family home, they set my burgeoning life into perpetual motion. Of course, none of us knew it at the time but my life, my identity, would never, could never, will never, be fixed to one place. My wheels will forever be spinning, spinning, spinning, to the next stop on down the line.
In other words, I would be at home everywhere and, at the very same time, at home nowhere.
I would understand if you found this to be sad. I get it, I really do. Dave, the poor guy, is a guest at every single party. Crazy thing is, I don’t feel like a guest. I feel like I am at home pretty much anywhere. Put me in a tight spot and I will make friends. Force me to take a new job and I will succeed. Drop me in the middle of the goddamned Milky Way galaxy far, far away and I will keep on keeping on. Somehow, for me, this life of perpetual motion just works.
So I’d heard voices or seen visions. I’m not sure what happened that night, but I will never forget it. Either way, I woke up the next morning, my sheets soaked through with sweat, but knowing in every fibre of my being, one thing:
I wasn’t going anywhere.
I was gonna stay in Holland and ride this thing out. I knew, more than ever, that there was nowhere to run. I hunkered down and stayed put.
Logistically speaking, there were issues. I’d need to cut costs and find new clients. The fat cat days seemed to be behind me and I’d need to adapt to a new reality. But my teaching business would have to stay afloat. I’d make sure of it.
Sadly, there was serious collateral damage. In what I can only describe as the greatest failure in my life, amidst all the turmoil and revelations, my marriage of 15 years failed. We just didn’t make it. We gave it the old college try by going to therapy and everything. To no avail. Our ships had sailed too far from each other and the bridge could no longer be gapped. We were over and it hurt in a way that simple words can do no justice. On occasion, it still does.
And yet, despite it all – the pain, the demons, the insecurity – I did not run. I stayed.
Holland, and Europe, and the rest of the big, beautiful world, had become my home base now, no matter what. I was a professional foreigner and the world, corny as it may sound, was my only home…