Finding Home (1,600 Big Miles Away)

It starts with coffee. A plain, albeit whimsical coffeehouse becomes the sanctuary for academics and writing—a quiet place of murmurs and coffee drips and tea cups clinking on saucers. On busier days, when the only seat left is in the crowded corner barely boasting the room for my own body, it begins with food instead.

Vegan diners, farmers' markets, organic grocery stores, smoothie shops—my soul is replenished and my stomach nourished. There are a few words exchanged, the warmth of a greeting, the sweetness of a small courtesy (an extra napkin, a door opened). Often there are dreadlocks, contained with an elastic, juxtaposing the orderly and the chaotic. Sometimes the jeans are rolled at the cuff, only once or twice, dragging the eye down to leather brogues. The shirt is usually plaid, sleeves pushed back at the elbows. The smile is always sincere. I give him a few wrinkled dollars for fleshy nectarines. He slips in an extra.

In my hometown, my niche is His creation. It’s the ocean, cliffs, sunsets studded with hot air balloons and hang gliders. It’s the “we aren’t built for this” kind of laughter as friends link arms and take on the rarity of rain in flip flops and tank tops.

My home is the sand, forever living in the trunk of my hybrid and sneaking through the cracks in the seats. It’s the aviators and the messy ponytails, the swimsuits, naked toes, and sunkissed, freckled noses. Home is my old parking spot at the high school, once painted coral and mint, with waves and dots splashing onto my best friend’s inversely painted slice of pavement. Home is the tiny fingernail of an outdoor café, nestled in the neighborhood by the beach, with Belgian waffles and little tin pitchers of steamed milk.

In Texas, it’s the nightly sunsets streaked with orange and pink and lavender, the gold leaves in the fall, and a springtime array of tulips and daffodils, wild by nature but contained by overzealous tender love and care. I brew coffee in my little single apartment and curl up in the oversized armchair to read. Home is my collection of thick, brightly colored paints and humble brushes. It’s my snoring neighbor and the distant sound of laughter and high heels, trailing down the halls and melting into the staircase.

Home is that one really long red light, when I silently curse for just missing the green (oh, knickers!). It’s the greasy burger joint with the sweet buns and my old freshman year dorm, tossing Polaroids of memories down to me out of wide-open windows. That was where we made forts and microwavable cookies and nearly fell out of our lofted beds.

But mostly, home—my own little place in a big, big world—is when I feel connected and peaceful, with a handful of friends over for dinner, laughing over baguettes and pasta with a thick garlic butter sauce, shoes kicked off by the door, phones in a basket, and heart full.

“She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went. It's easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said.” | Brian Andreas