I arrived in Albuquerque by train in 1994, and I’ve never really left.
Full disclosure: this statement is true only in a poetic sense; despite my efforts, I’ve spent much more time not in Albuquerque than in it over the last fifteen years, and though I mark 1994 as my arrival date, I had been to Albuquerque before that visit. My first visit to Albuquerque was actually in the summer of 1988, but I was a surly thirteen-year-old and my only real memories are of finding piñon-studded hills weird and of my first stay in a La Quinta (by the airport). But maybe something stuck with me all the same, as it was after that visit that New Mexico became a place I wanted to go. Before then I don’t think I had much sense that anything existed west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Despite the caveats, I think my opening statement is true, in its own way. I did take the train to Albuquerque in the summer of 1994; I immediately felt at home and wanted to stay. I dutifully went back east and finished my college degree instead. I then embarked on a career which has had me in and out of Albuquerque (and in and out of New Mexico) for over a decade. I’ve been in that time the legal resident of three countries and five states (none of them New Mexico) and yet I still feel Albuquerque is home.
This morning, after I rose at 4:30 am so I could catch an early flight from the Sunport to get to work on time, it occurred to me (not for the first time) that my behavior is very, very odd. Living in Albuquerque and commuting to work elsewhere is not a logical choice. The fact that I’ve been doing this in one form or another for over ten years seems ludicrous. In that time, my friends have settled in various places, and their choices about where to live have been dictated by their jobs, or by their family. They are polite, but puzzled as to why I need to live in Albuquerque. “Most places are pretty much the same,” one of them told me the other day. “Why are you doing this to yourself?”
I had no answer for her. Or rather, I have an answer – I just don’t know how to articulate it. Which is why I have decided to start writing about Albuquerque and why I stay here. My task: over the next few months, I will try to put into words why it is that I can’t leave Albuquerque, even though I don’t work here and trying to live here and work elsewhere has been slowly (or not so slowly) driving me insane these past years. And by May, perhaps, I will have an answer for my friend.