[travelogue] charleston.


the truth is that this cross-country trip is one i don’t necessarily want to remember — and yet i can’t help my desire to document and share it in the way that i want to document and share everything beautiful. maybe that’s the thing about the world, that my heart might be breaking into the tiniest little pieces, that things might be going to shit all over the place, but the world is still largely a place of beauty and wonder — and, even amidst the heartbreak, amidst the depression, it still manages to take my breath away.

charleston — or, at least, the tiny bit of charleston i got to see in the less-than-twenty-four-hours i was there — is a beautiful city. yes, it has a sordid history, and its way of trying to edit it leaves me scratching my head, but the city is beautiful, the people friendly, the food outstanding.

(holy shit, the food is incredible.)

i have a weird emotional connection to charleston. it’s a city i want to like, to love even, and it’s been on my list of cities to visit for some time now, so, when i thought about the possibility of driving across the country, i knew i’d be making a stop here. that’s part of why i don’t necessarily want to remember this trip, though — because everything about it feels wrong; none of this was supposed to happen this way.

here’s the thing, though: sometimes, i think life is all about navigating disappointments. sometimes, i think it’s the cynic in me who says that, that i don’t actually believe that at my core, that i believe life is more hopeful than that, but the last two years of my life have been about trying to bear the weight of disappointments and, ultimately, not surviving it.

and i wonder whether it’s worth sharing any of this, but i do carry this conviction to be transparent, to share not only the lovely, shiny things in life but also to be able to acknowledge the crap, to say that, no, nothing is going well in my life, i am struggling with so much darkness, but here is something good — here is something that made me smile. i dislike how we curate our lives to make it seem as though we have picture-perfect lives; i’m not interested in those veneers; and i’m not interested in presenting only the good, whether it’s here in this space, on instagram, or in my fiction.

because the truth is that we all hurt. we all go through moments in our lives that are filled with nothing but pain. we all suffer heartbreak. we all feel like we’ll go mad from it.

and, yet, the other truth is that the world continues to be a beautiful place. sometimes, that beauty is comforting; sometimes, it’s the most cruel thing; but it’s there to be seen, to be witnessed, to be remembered. and, maybe, right now, i don’t want to remember this road trip much at all because, maybe, it’d be better to forget the heartache, the pain, the grief. maybe, it’ll be possible to leave all this brokenness behind because, maybe, one day, i will be well, and i won’t want to remember any of the hurt.

and, yet, it would be impossible to keep the beautiful parts of this trip while discarding the darker parts because the darkness brought me here, and it made me see the beauty that gave me the hope and lightness i needed to get through the day. like i said before, nothing exists in clean consistency, and things exist, take place, in relation to each other. i cannot keep one and forget the other.

so, when i think back on charleston, i will think back to this first visit, these not-even-twenty-four hours i spent in this city. i will think about the sadness of my circumstances, the disappointment that this was not how i wanted to meet this city for the first time. at the same time, i will think about eating that fabulous meal at FIG, about listening to people talk about weird baby names while eating a satisfying breakfast biscuit sandwich. i will think about eating okonomiyaki at a restaurant in a converted gas station and thinking back to the last time i ate okonomiyaki in hiroshima in 2012, and i will think about that barista at a fancy coffee shop who said, “hi, my name is [___]; nice to meet you.”

i will think about the houses, all those columns and porches, and i will think of the warmth even in december. i will think about how i thought that, no, charleston is not a city that makes me think it could be home, not in the way boston does or sapporo does, but it is a beautiful city, yes, one with complicated history that maybe needs deeper reckoning, and it is one i would like to explore further in the future because it is a city that let me believe, at least for that day, that i will have a future.

there were a lot of things i wanted to say about charleston, about the carolinas, about the south in general and place and the question of how we are to exist in places that are hostile to us. i wanted to talk about how the billboards change once you pass into north carolina, all the bible verses and proselytizing followed by advertisements for gentlemen’s clubs and adamandeve.com and fireworks — the south really loves its fireworks. i wanted to talk about how there are yellow diamond signs announcing CHURCH, followed by a church, how there are so many churches in south carolina, so many that i wonder how any of them is sustainable because there doesn’t seem to be population enough to congregate and support them. i wanted to talk about the oddness of being a [queer] woman of color in such predominantly white spaces, about the oddness of seeing people of color mostly behind the counters, providing services, while everyone else was largely white.

there was a lot about the carolinas, about the south in general, that made me uncomfortable.

maybe we’ll get into that in the future.


we’re halfway into january, and i haven’t read a single book yet this month, this year. to be honest, i haven’t been thinking that much about books, and, while i’m hauling a van full of books (and a dutch oven) (and a rice cooker and guitar) across the country, i’ve only got two in my tote: nayoung aimee kwon’s intimate empire and rachel khong’s forthcoming goodbye, vitamin.

considering that i’ve been driving 6-7 hours a day, i unsurprisingly haven’t had much time to read. this is the thing with me and books, though — that, even if i never pull the book out of my bag during the day, it still comforts me to know that it’s there, even if it’s adding weight to my tote bag. i like knowing that i could reach into my bag at any time and have a book on hand, and, even in this time of darkness, even as depression takes away my ability to focus on words, i like knowing that it’s there, that books will be there, that literature will keep going on.

i like knowing that, even while i’m struggling just to believe that i will be able to continue creating things of beauty and wonder, there are people out there — writers, chefs, musicians, artists of all kind — creating and putting beauty and wonder and light into the world every day.