To be completely honest, I didn’t really care that much to come home, and as I watch the Washington Memorial start to disappear out the window, I still have my doubts. It’s not that I didn’t want to see my family… I want to see them every day. If I could have them there with me, I would, but in all honesty, I’m exhausted. The prospect of getting on a bus at eleven o’clock at night and hoping that maybe there weren’t any children or nine hour marathons of Golden Girls was too much for me. Before I had even approached the bus, I unloaded two Benadryl from my bag and bought an outrageously priced 2.00 Cherry Coke. The plan was to drug myself into an allergy medicine coma until I reached the daylight of Knoxville’s downtown bus station.
But then what do I do? I get picked up and then I pretend like my life hasn’t changed for four days, and then I get back on a bus to do it all over again? The closer it got, the more the concept of going back home troubled me. I kind of feel like I was forced out of Knoxville being my home. I haven’t seen anything Knoxville related in over two months now, and I started noticing that when it came to people from home, my phone had a lot of outgoing calls, but not many that were incoming. So after a period of mourning a life that really wasn’t mine, I was determined to let it die. I would write about my past in this blog, but as far as I was concerned, the future belonged to D.C.
I have started putting this life together up here, choosing family members with their own stories. I like the idea that after a day or so, people might even miss me. The thing about DC is that most people come alone, and no one really knows what’s going on… and I’m not even talking about the political side. So, in a weird, mismatched, completely non-methodical way, I chose these people to share my life with, and I became okay with the idea that they could replace what I’ve come from. I didn’t need what I left because people either didn’t understand why I left, didn’t believe I could, or simply forgot to remember me once I had gone. Or at least that’s the way I saw it.
But as I walked up to the bus stop, I decided to take a seat and check my Facebook, Twitter, blog, and all three of my email accounts. A man next to me was obviously talking to his spouse, telling them how much he couldn’t wait to see them. He loved them. He’d talk to them soon. I couldn’t tell if he was coming or going, but I knew that wherever he was going, there was very distinctly a home that he had in his mind. I thought to myself, I wish I had that certainty. That assurance that he has in his voice to call one thing home over anything else. In recent weeks, I had no idea what I would call home because I wasn’t sure myself anymore.
And then there was this woman. If I had to guess, I would say it’s in the upper 50s in Washington, but she walked up in a full blown coat, scarf, and toboggan. She was obviously ready for an elderly installment of Cool Runnings. Naturally, she decided to sit down next to me, as all the most interesting people do. She tried to talk to the man who was on the phone, but he was quite obviously not entertained by what she had to say. So she turned to me. Look at our bus driver. Well doesn’t she look fresh as a daisy. We quickly deduced that we would be on the same bus going home to Tennessee. Then, surprisingly enough, we found out that we’ve both lived off of Chapman Highway. We started exchanging stories about our lives, but I really didn’t have anything in comparison. Somehow, in the span of thirty minutes, we covered topics from politics to health care to religion, to which she had to say, My daughter married a Pentecostal. I don’t think I have to say anymore… she came up to me one day and said, “Mama, I’m so sorry, but I think you’re going to hell.” The Pentecostals are like that… and I said, “Well, I’m more worried about you going around and judging people like that.” And I remember the conversation so well because I was literally writing down her words verbatim as she sat in front of me.
She began to tell me that none of us were all that different from one another, even when it came to religion. We all worship something greater than us, and none of us have ever been able to prove it, but it’s human nature to want something that you can’t understand. At times, I wondered if maybe she was just bat shit crazy, or if maybe, there was a slight possibility that she knew something I didn’t. She did however say that anybody who studies philosophy and takes it seriously as a subject is a “plain out waste of time,” and I couldn’t help but giggle. People who study philosophy can’t tell you nearly as much about life as I can. While they were studying life, I was living it.
But then she went back to Tennessee, telling me how she had lived there for 7 years, but then she had moved to Florida. Later, she would move to Ohio, then Syracuse (which was her least favorite), then New Hampshire, and finally settle in at her current location of Boston. I started asking her just how many places she had lived, and she responded, I’ve lived too many places to count. I call them all home, whether I liked them or not. Of course, I would find myself sitting next to the seemingly whack job bag lady capable of offering up wise life lessons that I couldn’t even fathom. She spoke of life and death like it was a science… not one that she had studied, but rather lived first hand, having lost her daughter to cancer five years ago on her birthday. Soon after, I asked her if maybe we should get in line and then the sneaky old skank said that she put her bags at the front of the line early on, but if I wanted to get on the bus, I better go take my place… about thirty people back.
I nodded to the man sitting next to us, the one who was on his phone, and it all kind of hit me suddenly. The man didn’t have a particular place in mind when he was thinking about home. Home was whoever was on the other side of that phone call. Yeah, they may live in a house in a specific city, but it was obvious that the phone call being made was not because of a house or some patch of property. That love and definite feeling of home belonged to a person, which kind of explains my debacle. I want to go home, but I don’t want to leave… because I’m lucky enough to call two places home. And I suppose that maybe the reason no one ever called to make sure I was doing okay is because I didn’t really give anyone the opportunity to be unsure of my situation. I talk to people everyday, letting them know about walking across the street or blowing my nose or about a new television show. So, I would still say the situation is hard… leaving to go back to Tennessee, but it’s not because I don’t know what home is; it’s because I have to leave home to go home.
So after a ten hour day at work and a dinner alone and four hours of sleep to make that all happen on, I’m going to pop the safety Benadryl and go pass out, and when I wake up, I imagine I will be seeing the sunlight shine across a different home than I went to sleep to.
Update: I kept running into Evelyn, or Meggie as she introduced herself. In between medicinal comatose, we’d stop at rest stops. At our most recent 5:00am stop somewhere in Southern Virginia, she offered to buy me a coffee, seeing that in reality… she was much more weather-appropriately dressed. She is easily one of the most caring, thoughtful people I’ve ever met, and I hope that one day, I can be a fraction of the human that she has become.