Eight. I’ve lived eight places in all. Apartments, houses, single rooms for rent, sublets. I tick them off on my hands by nicknames and years.
Today someone asked for my zip code, and I recited one from childhood, shook my head, and tried again.
That’s still Detroit, she said.
That’s where I’m from. Or used to live. It’s a little complicated.
“Do you like it? Does it feel like home?” People ask about moving, and the conversation always lodges a sharp question right between my ribcage and my heart.
Does it feel like home?
Home is the squeaky antique floorboards of a house I used to rent; the fifth one squeaks, and then the tenth, and then the one right next to the fridge. Every space comes with its own rhythm and secrets. You learn.
Home is my aunt’s swimming pool, made for midnight diving and cold pizza and hunting for neon towels in the warm summer dark. It was filled in a decade ago.
Home is my mom, who talks across the whole house, even when you’re in the next room, or sleeping, or exactly right next to her. She laughs and says sorry, and reaches out her hand to touch my shoulder.
I walk the greenways and learn the street names slowly. And by slowly, I mean very slowly. No one tells you that finding your way and getting lost are one in the same, that failure and progress might be the exact same messy place, that messy can be a good thing.
I find new lakes to walk around and around until the sound of my footsteps feels like some kind of prayer. Mostly everywhere I know no one, and it’s odd and liberatingly fun and a little lonely, depending on the day.
Starting over has made me redefine exactly what I need to be a human in the world. Books, and God, and open green space, and connection, and a decent cup of coffee. Gifts loosely held. I find a quiet sense of peace in the knowledge that nowhere has to be perfect, that connection can be found nearly everywhere, and that familiarity comes with a little bit of elbow grease and a lot of time, that cantankerous old recipe.
Home. It’s in the geese that fly low as the sky drizzles rain. It’s catching the right bus at the right time with the right amount of change. But mostly, it’s the conversations and people and rare moments of connection. The way the light stays a little longer each day. The small assurances that I’m seen and loved.
And here, the space between letters. You and me and a few syllables strung together; I forget it can be its own miracle. One word in front of another, in front of another. There, just then. That.