Back in Utah my family noticed we’d lost an hour. As the distance between us and our old home grows, and the things we took for granted once during the lazy summer (like time, like 80 degree highs) change into greater indicators of distance, I can’t help but feel a muted sadness tug at my chest. The car’s dashboard clock blinks California’s time while my phone shows a three hour difference. You/he/she/they are eating dinner while my eyes are drowsy with sleep. When they begin stirring in their beds as the western sky awakes, I will be well into the day, stomach full and my mind also full of two different realities.
I am traveling through the middle ground, though now closer to the east than the west. The middle ground: where the past mixes with the present. Looking at license plates, I am amazed–Illinois, New Jersey, Canada… people from all different walks of life are gathered here. I remember the game that a friend would play with her sister, how they’d punch each other lightly whenever they spotted a different license plate, a rare sight in our quiet town in southern California. I pass Dairy Queen, a common chain store, and remember my last conversation with my friend Hannah, how we’d sat holding Oreo milkshakes, our hands cold as we teared up, throats swollen with goodbyes we both could not believe. Other stores in these new places bring old memories to mind: driving Sarah down the shiny aisles at Target, looking for birthday gifts for friends at Walmart, hiking in the mountains with familiar faces…
How many states separate us now? California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio… In a matter of 7 days, I have become more of a stranger, a sojourner. I read once that it hurts to leave because people are connected to places. I forgot this to be true until today, when little reminders in the form of online messages and emails and unexpected texts brought my attention to my heart strings, how they have become so intertwined with the people back home. Home, for me, has never been a place, but a gathering of people I love.
It is all quite excruciating. My cheeks are wet, but there is still joy in knowing that we all carry inside ourselves a little home. Our arms, our hearts, our shoulders… they are all someone’s home if we will allow them to be. I have many homes, and so I keep traveling, going door to door in the hopes of finding some place I can stay for eternity. But I realize my heart strings are already bound to the courts above, that sojourn, (noun) means “a temporary stay.”
***Forgive me because it takes me a long while to say goodbye. I keep writing in the hopes of gaining closure, but what if I don’t need it? Perhaps this is not goodbye at all, perhaps this new chapter will only enrich the story that is being written instead of altering it completely.