When I have lived in the country of my youth, the geography of home is the rolling hills and green lush of the Appalachia in western Pennsylvania. It's the ability to walk in front of a window stark naked without the fear of being seen by any neighbors (although, our mom was always telling us to close the curtains, girls!) Home is the windows down with the radio on and a hand rolling through the wind. It's the slam of a screen door, the distinct scent that precedes rain and the only minutely different smell just before it snows. Home is the night sky visible stretching from each horizon uniquely lit depending on the moon phase. I have grown to love the sad song of the mourning doves and relish in taking hearty deep inhales of fresh cut grass or the lingering scent of someone's backyard fire. Home is the sound of leaves and gravel crunching under boots and the taste of wild blackberries pulled off with stained fingers from the bushes back by the woods line behind the house.
But somehow, when I lived in the city, the geography of home was pliable and bent and curved into something comfortable and familiar for my new life.
Home became the steep stairs up from the subway to the glint of sunlight and skyline above to feel like you were emerging into life again. It was the steady flow and rhythm of pedestrians on a crowded sidewalk in midtown on Saturday afternoons. I came to love the melody of different languages and accents as they wove together in an original score for each day of commute as I walked along in blissful anonymity; the invisibility of living in a place along with a million other people. Home is the individual heat signatures that my footprints left on the paths I followed each day on top of those billions of other footprints left before and since mine. The lines my soles wore into the sidewalks each morning on my commute, past my morning hot tea and bagel shop; a kind greeting with the old man behind the counter, up and over the pathway, winding past the wall where graffiti messages were painted that felt like personal messages just for me, up the school steps and into the building to receive wide grins and hugs around my waist from my students.
If I have a home that is steadfast and true; one that doesn't adapt to my physical surroundings, it is the landscape of his arms wrapped around me and the nook in the space between his jawline and collarbone that seems as though it was carved out specifically for me at the beginning of time, or maybe has been so worn in after all these years of snuggling in as sleep slipped behind our eyelids. It is the feeling of warmth and safety from his arm carefully weaved beneath my neck and down along my side as the steady rise and fall of his chest keeps my rested hand moving in time to his breath. Home is the familiar, smooth motion of his hands pushing aside my hair so his lips can find the nape of my neck. It's is the smell of him that gets caught in the seams of his white tshirts; a mix of chewing tobacco and cologne and whatever it is that makes him him. A scent that smells so good even when it shouldn't. Home is the sound of his voice from across the other side of the phone, the room, or the pillow. His very nearness can transform any place into home, the background blurs and fades, and we're together and that's all that mattered anyway.
The only map of home I've ever needed are the lines on his face where smiles meant just for me are held. Nestled there in the crook of your neck, that is my home.
happy valentines day.
(our sixteenth, this year.
and i still like you as much as our first!)