To the homes we build:
They don’t tell you about the goodbyes. The unspoken understanding that this is temporary. Here only for a short while. Swept up in the hills, dancing in the streams, playing among the sheep—soul breathing, heart singing. What happens when I awake from this dream?
I floated in, a seed looking for soil to sprout. I came, worried the wind would blow me about, that I would never land. But I did. Here in Scotland, rain is abundant, and so I couldn’t help but let my roots sink.
I could’ve come in, gone to uni, hiked some trails, gone to some cities on a list I’ve made. Lived and breathed. In and out in a breath of fresh air. And I’m sure that could’ve been fine and enjoyable. Perhaps even easier.
The thing is, it hasn’t been like that. I came with the fear I’d make friends that didn’t know me. The kind that would move about with me simply because here we are, convenience putting us together. Knowing my name, my addiction to tea, perhaps even bits of my history. Not knowing I can’t wake up on a digit ending in 0 or 5. That I fight a mental battle with my body—strong as it may be, it’s sick with disease. Or that I am dreamer found only in a world above.
But here I am, approaching the end of April with just a month left, and I can say it hasn’t been so. I feel known here. I hoped for the kinds of relationships that go beyond how-do-do’s, that dive deep—even into the murky mess hidden underneath. Where no masks have to be worn. Where I’m seen as me and I see you as you. And somehow, I have them.
I feel two things. Extreme gratitude, like awe, like wonder. But it’s laced with something I can’t seem to name. It’s heavy and dark. It smells, almost like rotting cheese. Beneath the surface I feel it growing. I feel it rising in my throat, and I want to retch but I choke it down.
‘It’s not goodbye,’ she tells me. We are walking by a stream in the woods. It’s a place that seems like New Jersey, like the woods I used to play in. It looks more like my childhood than any place I’ve been in these past few months.
She’s right and I know it. I still share my days with those I love in my other homes. But there’s something different about a screen. There’s a veil that distorts the present. It’s not like sharing a moment right now, tomorrows and yesterdays growing small. It’s riddled with uncertainty of when I can again squeeze you in a hug.
They don’t tell you how a heart can split across mountains, across oceans. How as you are thrown into a magical land, home becomes different. It’s not how you remember it, in one place, in the same few faces. Home becomes bigger, scattered ashes in the world. Paths cross and diverge. We journey from dust to dust. It’s a beautiful thing. But right now, it tastes like vomit on my tongue. I’m trying to hold on to the day as it is. Again I ask, what happens when I awake from this dream? Somehow, whether here in Stirling, whether in Pennsylvania or even New Jersey, I will always be away from home.
Maybe that’s okay. I think we like to imagine home to be permanent. Tangible. But maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s the water that’s washed our feet. The faces that recognize our souls. Perhaps, though, it’s even more.