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On the way to the country, Shoal Januswort pondered on the impact his visit would have on his hometown. It had been a long time since he had returned from the city. He often considered this a nuanced situation as he feared he was no longer the same man. Not only had he changed his tastes and views on life, he would affirm, but he also thought that he no longer recognized his upbringing or who he once was. A lot had happened, he had fallen in love, married, had found “success” in life, and had even been acclaimed and lauded on some occasion; but Shoal had also been heartbroken, had failed, fallen in precarious times, and had even questioned the existence of God. And this, this last point, scared him the most. This moment of honesty or weakness, he often vacillated on its meaning, was the biggest worry of all. It meant an irreconcilable division from his customs and culture, but also his people. 

Shoal often also pondered on the meaning of this. Where are they still, his people? A question that had often echoed in his head now resounded louder than it ever had. 

Shoal’s visit was long overdue, and now these existential pangs were but the propulsor for him to visit again. At first, he criticized and even scorned the pace and feel of his hometown village. To him nothing seemed to have changed in the last 13 years. In fact, his memory had failed him and what used to be his entire world during his early formative years, now seemed like a hole in the middle of nowhere. Yet, something was different. He could not tell what was missing at first, but he knew somewhat, someway, his hometown was no longer the same. He desperately searched around for landmarks and buildings to place what he unconsciously understood were missing, but could not truly point to. Nothing was out of place, in fact this was the constant, these things remained the same and was what led him to believe that nothing had changed. Yet, he knew things were not the same. 

Was it nostalgia?  He pondered, mournfully. No, not that either. It was something more, but also something less conspicuous. 

Shoal did not understand. He was not looking for a reason, rather he was looking for a lost feeling and a sensation of home, and an understanding he had lost a long time ago. It was this feeling, which he gained through his hometown and its people, which he was now in search of. Yet, he did not know this, nor could he now attain it. Most of the people he grew up with had also left for the city, and those who raised them were either dead or no longer interested. They interpreted his long absence as abandonment, and now his return was actively ignored as inconsequential. Shoal knew this, yet he did not try to remedy the situation. Instead, he was lost in a world of his own making, and was blinded by his selfish pursuit of finding home and understanding his own heart. 

Either way no one cares, not even Shoal. Not even the animals seemed to recognize him. He was now a stranger in his own land. An outsider both in the village and in the city. An outsider both to others and to himself. Shoal was poor and yet rich, rich but yet poor. Shoal was a paradox and a paragon of the migrant experience. Shoal was lucky, but also unlucky. Shoal was for others but also for himself. He was a creature divided, with no home and not a well-defined self. Yet he was praised and lauded as the ideal to aspire to at home and far away. Shoal, was Shoal, but also that which is much more.


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