Monday, May 01, 2006

Little things

When you lose something you love, you miss little things you never imagined.

I've had one permanent loss this week (Leo), and one temporary reacquaintance with something I've lost temporarily.

In both cases, it's small things. For Leo, it's realizing that my jeans are denuded of their customary dog hair layer, or opening a suitcase and finding all of my clothes are dry instead of in their typicallly damp, just-sniffed state. It's missing the warm, heavy weight of a sprawled body on my feet, like the one I have right now at my friend's house, courtesy of his massive Australian Shepherd. It's wishing for one more whine, one more incessant "in-and-out" of the door routine, anything that used to exasperate me. Since I missed his actual passing, I still can't associate the too-small plot in the backyard with the dog I loved. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and, if I just keep my eyes half-shut, I'll see him again, curled up and hoping that I don't make him get out of his bed just yet. He would have been 14 today.

For the other, the second hole in my heart (more painful because it's being refilled only to empty again soon?), it's coming home to the city where my soul still resides. I might live physically in England, but my heart and dreams are here, somewhere between 15th's crowded streets, Fremont's sun-speckled sidewalks and the Burke's rain-slicked, solitary nights.

I've never felt so good coming back to a place. I don't actually think I've felt this alive in months. Everything routine becomes special, and I find it's the little things I was missing again, like the careful detail of a foam-embossed leaf on my drink at Victrola's, or the smoldering burn of my legs as I slog up the back side of Capitol Hill.

It scares me, really. I am so desperate to come home for good someday that I don't know what I'll do if I can't. We both want to be here, despite the skyrocketing housing costs and the bad traffic. This city nourishes me in a way that no other place has; in an instinctive way, I know no other place could, even the tucked-away corners of the world I haven't seen yet. There are parts of who I've become that are entwined with this place. But the best-laid plans go awry. Standing in an empty home for sale yesterday, I listened to the realtor tell me we'd be lucky to find anything we could afford now, let alone in a few years. That's when the jitters set in, the comingling sensations of hope and dread that kept me up last night and chased me over the city streets today.

So maybe we'll rent forever. We wouldn't be the first. Is it crazy that I'm willing to bend everything else -- grad school, career goals, lifestyle, potential firstborn -- to be somewhere so right that every fiber in my body cries out to stay when I'm here?

I never thought I'd want to stay in one place, but now I'm afraid of being uprooted from the only place I want to be. Maybe if I dig down deep enough and hold on with both fists clenched, nothing will be able to tear us away again.


kristy said...

It's too bad you didn't get here last month. I think you would have found things far less enchanting. I know complaining about the weather is pretty shallow, but a bit of spring sunshine can be downright intoxicating, can't it? And it is a beautiful week. Welcome back!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Meg dearest, I'm so sorry about Leo. It's surreal, isn't it? It was pretty rough when Kona died, and being home without a hyperactive lab jumping all over me for the first time made homecoming strangly empty and incomplete.

I loved reading about your sense of return. I remember feeling the exact same way my first winter break after starting grad school. The people and places around whom and which my sentiments were so tightly entwined bound me to my beloved hometown. Even the landscape seemed to tell me I belonged there, and not here, and I wondered if Berkeley could ever be populated with memories and moments. And yet I have found myself growing attached to lovably oddball Berkeley, just as I grew to love austere alpine Grenoble and frenzied claustrophobic Saigon. Although no place will ever re-place (yes, that was a terrible postmodern twitch) Seattle, don't give up hope that Cambridge and other places may someday prove fulfilling. And, yes, I believe bending grad school, career, and your first born are all worth finding your way back home. Why study, work, or raise children in any other place?

I'll be home soon too, but we'll just miss each other. So I'll see you next Christmas. At home.

-berkeley girl