The most surprising thing about what I miss most on this road trip is how little I miss. There is longing, condensing from my every pore, but that is not site-specific. What do I miss about having a home? What do I miss about doing art? What do I miss about friends and our running rituals? And what part of any of that don't I have? Couldn't I very well live out of this car and camp and scrimp money together and sponge off friends? Haven't I done art with others and alone on this trip? And I am often enough surrounded by loved ones, punctuated by periods in the great secular churches of America, the National Parks, where I dip my head in the waters and feel comforted and small.
Maybe it will hit me. Maybe I'm still a bit numb from my loss. Maybe It's hard to miss New York when I wasn't there last, I was suspended in Northern Virginia, tethered to something I floated away from. Maybe I'm just in the salad days of my trip and soon the money will run out, and the friends and family will run out and the sense of adventure will just make me feel tired. But I'm on week five and when I think of going back all I feel is a twinge of sadness. Making life work on the road is exciting business. It is a challenge and I am put out every step of the way, but to do the same sort of juggling with my non-nomadic life? It seems humorless. Destined to wring the calendar of its days like a spent dish towel.
To go home. I've already budgeted some weeks before returning to New York from Virginia. So I can cook a fancy dinner for Maryland friends. So I can eat Korean BBQ again with Mommy Topscher. So I can take my niece and nephew to a movie or to kick a soccer ball in the park. Maybe a trip to visit a friend in Philly. I run head on to chocolate challenges and wince at even the idea of vanilla ones. My roommate put it best, when I told her I was afraid to come back to New York and yet really miss our apartment she said, "you've already faced some pretty big, fear-inducing things...I bet once you get back NY will seem more 'conquerable' than ever." I know she is right. I trust her view of the world. It's just about what is appetizing. Which are the challenges we will stretch ourselves to conquer. And which are the ones that make us feel unwieldy, tied in knots.
Maybe it happened when my four years in New York felt like a decade of struggle and my four years in Austin felt like a decade of celebration. Maybe traveling the states (and going back to Austin) has made me see how genuinely unimportant money is and how much it is something that everyone, despite what they make or where they live, needs more of. Perhaps in these travels I remember what it is to be my calm, centralized self. My plucky self. My un-self-conscious self. And maybe I worry that once I get back to New York it will be go go go again, and I will wear the thoughts and goings on of everyone around me like wet clothes and come down with the kind of cold you feel deep down in your desperate heart.
Nashville is happening. Santa Fe, adorable. San Francisco, a place I could seriously see myself. But I suppose that's the thing. I'm having trouble seeing myself right now. Not just for who I am, but for where I am. Where do any one of us belong? Is it where our gut pulls us? Our families? Our wallets? Our pillows? Places are just people. I've always felt that way. Every city I'm visiting is growing. Rent is rising. Gentrification is as common small talk subject as transportation. And food is better than ever. And coffee is still our lifeblood. But beer is really actually our lifeblood. And relationships are as messy as ever. And friendships are as important as ever. And water is scarce in California and that good bacteria is expressing itself in the swirling air of the bay.
The other day I read what I took to be a pretty hateful article on the internet and all this anxiety fully expressed itself. It made me want to run. Not in the way the National Parks fill me with boyhood and make me scramble up rocks. But a desire to escape notice. To be even more invisible than a man in tent site 34, in Veteran's Park in Monterey. Run somewhere new. Somewhere really unfamiliar. But to where? Where where where. Nowhere will I be safe from the hateful articles, the hot breath of the internet attitude, the blind swings of hurt people . Nowhere will I be safe from existential angst. Except in myself.
In my ribs, and behind my eyes, there is a fortress. A mobile one. If I didn't know it before, I've finally convinced myself, I need to find my way back in.
But I do really fucking want a Saltie sandwich and some Prince St. pizza.
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