Thursday, January 19, 2006

among strangers.

"Then I think - Where? Where feels like home?...That time when I was twelve when we went to the Gaeltacht - our first time away from home - the other little girls sobbed for a day or two before they settled down. But I wasn't any more homesick than usual. I think you can be born homesick. I think you can have a dislocated heart. No place will do. The most wonderful home in the world full of the most love wouldn't be enough for you - you'd keep looking around for where you belong." -nuala o'faolain

the other day, coming back to my neighborhood from downtown, i got off the 146 bus at the intersection of roscoe and the inner drive. the underpass to the lakefront was just to my right, and time was plentiful, so i walked under the rush of traffic and emerged in front of belmont harbor. i had my hat and scarf on, though the wind off the lake wasn't very bad, and my iPod was tucked in my pocket. i sat at the edge of the choppy water, listening to fiona and tom petty and tori and rilo kiley. i watched the people around me - couples in expensive shoes strolling along together, joggers running in pairs or alone, two round middle-aged women, bundled up in big fleece coats, taking pictures of each other with the lake and skyline as their backdrop.

after a little while, i started making my way back to the street, and i realized that i rather enjoyed the sensation that i was an observer, someone who felt apart from the scene and watched it passively. i didn't feel like i belonged there, sitting on lake michigan, or walking the sidewalks and pathways alongside it, but i actually enjoyed that feeling. after a year and a half of living in this city, i've struck a comfortable balance between outsider and insider - i am comfortable enough with my surroundings and my understanding of them that i can go downtown without consulting a transit map or asking directions, and yet i can walk around still feeling like there is so much that i don't know.

and now, just as i've reached that cozy midpoint between newcomer and settled resident, i get an itch to move on - to start all over again. to find a new city where eventually, i can look out the window over an intersection and know where the uneven pavement is, which storefront has just closed, and which bus routes groan and hiss by every fifteen minutes - but still feel a random pang of loneliness, still feel that moment of "how did i get here?" rushing over me. that strange and beautiful feeling that you could belong, but you know that you don't.

home is a fascinating concept. i do have a home, in the sense that my parents live in the house i grew up in, and will always make a place there for me if and when i need one. for that, i am very lucky and grateful. however, in the long run, their home is not cut out to be my home. and i have to wonder, like nuala, if there will ever be a place that feels like my singular home. i have to wonder if i want there to be one. because for now, as odd as it sounds, small victories over places, small inroads into life in a certain spot at a certain time, seem really appealing to me. i like the idea that i can try it anywhere, and that maybe sometime soon, BoyCat and i will unpack our bags in some new apartment on some new city street, and i will grab my coat and my iPod and venture outside - a strange face among strangers.

6 comments:

east side girl said...

This was a really great post. The concept of home is a very interesting one. "Home" as in my parents' home, is more comforting in thought than in reality, b/c when I go back to visit, I'm not exactly comfortable there anymore.

"Home" as in my apartment, is a very comforting concept to me, even though I've only lived there for 5 months and I know that in a year I'll probably live somewhere else.

Strange. But you wrote a really beautiful post. There's nothing better than heading out your door to explore a new neighborhood.

jayniek said...

Bravo, Katers. That was gorgeous.

BigBuddhaPuppy said...

I had "home" until I was 14...then it took me another 20 or so until I found it again...I think it is a place you feel at peace and comfortable...

dorothy rothschild said...

This was a beautiful post.

I spent much of my life knowing that where I was living at the moment was not where I would be living permanently. For example, I knew I would be getting right the hell out of Texas as soon as I graduated from high school. Then there was college. Then a year abroad. Then grad school. Then a summer in New York as an intern. Then another year abroad. I can remember wandering around various cities in Europe as an undergrad, especially at night with a buzz on and feeling melancholy, and looking up and seeing people's lighted windows, and being very envious of their homes, because I felt like I had none. I would sometimes ache knowing that I would have to leave certain places I loved living...like Columbus, where I was in grad school and felt more like home to me than any place I'd lived before but which now feels too small when I visit.

Now that I've chosen to put down roots here in NYC, it feels good. And it feels like home.

Toast said...

"You mighty young to be writin' such heavy lyrics" -B.B. King

Anonymous said...

At first I thought the quote was the single saddest thing I had read. The constant feeling of being lost. Reading your post brought it all into a whole new light for me. Great Post. Thanks!!

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