I often brag about my talent of being able to sleep just about anywhere: trains, airport floors, those 18-hour long Greyhound trips. I credit it to my having moved so many times in my short 27-years; I have learnt a deep comfort when I am inhabiting the spaces between places.
That simple, first question from a stranger; “Where are you from?” sends me into an internal ping-pong match–do I give the two-second answer of where my current bedroom is that doesn’t feel authentic or launch into a list that would cover a map with a whole ball of yarn connecting the dots of had-been-homes.
I have written many poems on the South Shore train ride between South Bend, IN and Chicago. It’s just a two-hour trip with business commuters, weekend Chicago “Magnificent Mile” shoppers and weary post-finals college students like me. Our silver ship trundles through small town Indiana, and the backyard grist of Gary till we all pour out on the sidewalks in the heart of the Windy City’s downtown.
Our family has a favorite grocery store, hotel, and gas station on the well-worn ten hour drive between California’s dry Central Valley and Ashland, Oregon. We even have alternative refuel and resting places should the Siskiyou Pass be snowed in and we stop early before arriving at Mount Shasta.
I have the Amtrak stop calls memorized on the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder. I am known by conductors and cafe car attendants as I’m given a familiar nod–“Oh yes, the women who always brings her own tea bags and just asks for hot water.”
Stepping off the plane in any Central American country I am hit by the texture of the air, that humid thickness, which awakens something deep inside me. A mirage on the runway.
I long to be rooted, to someday have a simple answer to the basic question of home. I trust I will. For now the place I live is–the privilege of loving so many places that I feel at home in the spaces between them.