It's spring too soon and too hot; I walked home tonight from the train in a tank top and shorts, sweating. Blooms in the park should just be crowning, and already they're nearly spent. I found out too late I moved into the kind of neighborhood where people turn up their stereos all the way and put them in the window facing outwards, but I know the color of my skin, know who's the real bad neighbor here. I'm just the beginning of the end. I can't afford to live anywhere else either. There's the rub.
Tonight on the walk home from the train the air smelled salt thick like home and the longing for where I'm from rose up unbidden, swift and ruthless as a punch to the gut. I love it here, don't get me wrong, love what this city has made out of me. Love the worst days and the best, the dirt and misery along with the rare piece of joy, all the more priceless for how hard you earned it. But that smell, that smell. I left my windows open all day and as I'm typing this my desk is thick with grit, the keys sticking, my palms grey where I tried to brush the city's dirt away. You tell me what's better: being a stranger in your own home or finding home in a place that isn't yours. Tattooing shorebirds on your skin to remind you of where you came from. I don't remember anything, ever, and that's why I write things down.
When I moved to this new apartment the cat wouldn't sit in the window, though now she's learning. Like she wasn't ready for the outside, any more than I was. Our old neighborhood had more birds, quieter streets. It took longer for the city's filth to build up everywhere like another skin. If you think getting what you want changes your life, you're most likely mistaken; there you are, still, in your same old body, fucking up, getting it right, no telling which. Taking it apart and picking up the pieces. Loving, fighting, still the same. There are only so many plots for our stories. Always the mess of the world around you, getting messier all the time, you in the middle of it, thinking, I just want to be left alone, I just want the people I love to be left alone. I want us to be safe and fed, I want to go to the doctor when I get sick, I want to know we all know we are loved. Is that so much to ask? Not really, if you ask me. We are not asking for much.
Salt on the wind and the sound of gulls and maybe home is where you make it. But home is also where you come from no matter how much you belong there no longer. No matter how every time you go back and it breaks your heart. In the city where you were born people ask you where you are from and you say here and no one believes you. Salt and maybe behind it the sound of waves, the far hills, that place at the edge of the world where all around you everything is still and there is nothing left but the sound of your own heart, the blood moving through your body, the earth wheeling underneath. Remember how small you are, how small you are, and let it go until the moment passes and you are back again, cat in the window, street outside, dirt of the city under your hands. Wait until tomorrow and do it all over again.