Moving country requires more than the filling out of forms and the packing of bags and the saying of multiple goodbyes. It requires an inner steeling of the self, a cultivation of (a hopefully temporary) ruthlessness.
D and I have moved country three times now. Once to Australia, once back, to a part of Scotland I’d lived in only as a baby, once to New York City. And now we’re going back to Scotland. I know that, unlike moving within a country, there is no leniency over time or belongings. Books must be considered; are they really worth keeping? Do they sing to me? Will I ever read them again, or be comforted by their presence close to hand, should I wish to pick them out for a leaf through?
Documents must be combed for relevancy. Old photographs are found. The summer camp class we taught in Catalonia. A Christmas picture from a date that must be reconstructed in memory. So many bills and leases and ticket stubs and train passes and staplers and pencil sharpeners and doodads. Do we need this? What does this go with?
We must be resolute, but with an eye to considered conservation. Will someone ask us, in the coming years, to prove our relationship together, through these small fragments? Possibly, yes. That is the price of an international relationship. The authorities must have proof of authenticity, of a narrative played out over time. We must ask, later, for sworn affidavits from family and friends (confirmed citizens of the country we wish to dwell in), telling how we are known to have met, gone out, fallen in love, stitched our lives together.
And then, when the flight goes, it goes, and all items must be on it, or going ahead to the destination in the post, or lost to the landfill, or refashioned into something new. The aeroplane rises over the city, turns to the north-east. The sea ripples beneath the break of clouds, darkly, because it is at the drawing in of night that we will leave. We will sit, anxious at first from the shudder and the noise and the tilt of the world. But then, looking out of the tiny window, feel light again. Threaded together as always, and following along the slender, taut line that leads us onwards, towards where life must be constructed again, for a fourth time, in the city-upon-the-city, the chimney-city, the city of the seven hills.