I had a dream last night, a dream of childhood, a dream of the home where I grew up. I have this dream from time to time when things are looking risky in my life, when my job is precarious or I am uncertain what direction to go. It is not a dream that is pleasant, though. It is the Bottomlands trying to drag me back.
There is a foreign land just on the other side, on the other side of the tracks, the other side of the freeway, a land where dreams go to die and hope never rose, a land of trailer parks and rusty cars and dirty children playing in puddles of mud with broken toys. It is a land where the norms of behavior and dress that apply in America are unknown, a foreign land where nothing works the same, where the clan is the standard of life, "who's your people?" the first question you're asked. People can be kind there, or harsh, people are people, but life is harsh in general, with the only comforts of a life spent eking out a miserable living in a series of dead-end menial jobs (both legal and illegal) being mind-numbing drugs and television (pretty much the same in the end). These are the Bottomlands, where those from outside venture only reluctantly, and leave as swiftly as they can.
But as uncomfortable as it is for outsiders to venture into the forbidding realms of the Bottomlands, so it is for the denizen of the Bottomlands who quests outward, who finds a way past the barriers both social and physical put around the Bottomlands into the foreign land outside, who puts on some of the outer vestiges of the foreign land he finds himself and pretends to be just another person living the American dream. For this person, life is always precarious. What if he says the wrong thing, behaves the wrong way, somehow lets it be known that he does not, in fact, belong in this strange land he finds himself in? So he makes sure only a few trusted people can ever get close enough to notice the cracks in the facade, and hopes that the tightrope he walks never breaks and that he never wobbles and falls. Because there are no nets when you come from the Bottomlands. There is only the fall, and the Bottomlands pulling you in once again.
When times get rough, or uncertain, or something is disturbing me, I have that dream, that dream of childhood. And then it crashes in once again, that ugly realization that I try not to remember: the Bottomlands are jealous that I escaped. All it takes is one, only one mistake... and the Bottomlands are waiting there for me.
-- Badtux the Pensive Penguin