There's something unnerving about being lonely in a familiar place. I have elected to remain in New Haven for my final (undergraduate) spring break in order to complete my senior thesis. I am among a fairly small minority of undergraduates who have chosen to forgo the pull of warmer or more interesting locales and the push of closed dining halls and a deserted campus. Right now I sit in a coffee shop with which I am very familiar, surrounded by... strangers. A friend and I discussed a few weeks ago how nice it will be next year to be able to explore the streets of our new cities in relative anonymity. I hadn't expected a pre-graduation trial run.

One of things I appreciated about study abroad was the anonymity, but, more so, the expected and welcome strangeness. I traveled to Paris with a full understanding that I would be a stranger, not in the sense put forward by Camus (I killed no one, and, had I, I would have felt immediate remorse). Rather, I took comfort in the fact that I was not French, I would not (and should not) be taken as French and I wasn't.

There's a reason Du Bois' notion of double consciousness remains in wide circulation 100+ years after The Souls of Black Folk was published. Because it's still relevant. There are few things more frustrating and unsettling than being told one does not belong when one feels one does or should, whether explicitly or implicitly. As a queer person of color from a Christian background, I'm quite familiar with both.

Paris, then, was a welcome respite from unexpected and off-putting rejections and exasperating questions of identity and belonging. My belonging was never questioned by myself or others: I simply didn't belong. I was a visitor. I would soon leave.

In L'Intrus (The Intruder), French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy reflects upon his recent heart transplant. His new heart is, in many ways, an intruder, and one his body is likely to reject. I was, in that sense, the new heart of Paris. My acceptance in the city was contingent: it was understood that my term would end, my visa would expire and I would leave as quietly as I arrived. Had I tried to stay, more drastic action might have been undertaken.

This contingency is not, however, restricted to foreign places. As I've noticed here today, my comfort in any body depends upon its makeup and their reaction to my presence. Today, I might be an intruder, in two weeks, probably not. In six months...?

I've begun to worry about graduation, not because of any desire to remain in New Haven (although I just might), but because, even if I stay, the body of which I've become part will be leaving. My four years here has been the first time in my life I've been able to carve out a niche in which I've felt somewhat comfortable, and that will soon be disrupted.

But perhaps the strangeness of next year will be as welcome/ing as that of Paris. And I'll continue to adjust to being a perpetual outsider.

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