It was raining. A cold, steady rain, the kind that settles into a person’s bones and chills them deeper than a coat can warm. I had checked the forecast. It had said the rain wouldn’t arrive until the next day, and yet here it was. Much like everything else in my life, the opposite of what I had planned for now occurred. Still I walked, the wheels of my suitcase splashing my ankles with the cold, dirty water of the sidewalk. I had plenty of time to make the train and even grab a coffee if there wasn’t a line.
This was my first time moving somewhere with no plans of returning. After many tearful goodbyes to my parents and siblings over the last few days I was happy they had all agreed that it was best to just say farewell at the house and not accompany me to the station. I wasn’t sure if I would have been able to maintain my composure if the twins had started crying again. I looked down at the sealed envelope still held in my hand beneath my ticket. I wouldn’t read it until I was in my seat with the train well on its way. I knew my family—how much they loved me—and had no doubt the letter would make me cry.
After graduating from college with a double major in public relations and advertisement, I had expected everything in life to fall into place. A perfect job would await me upon graduation, a boyfriend would be preparing to propose anytime now, and I would know exactly where my life was heading. None of those things were the case. I hadn’t planned on my father getting sick and my mother needing my help. I hadn’t planned on my boyfriend of two years “falling out of love with me,” as he put it, and I hadn’t planned on working my old job with the small town paper again. It had been three years, my father was recovering and doing much better, I was over my heartbreak, and my college roommate and best friend was begging me to move with her to a new city. So I accepted the offer.
With coffee in hand and two minutes to spare, I boarded the chilly train. After arranging my backpack and suitcases in the overhead compartment I settled into my seat and prepared for the journey. The envelope stared at me from the foldout tray where I had placed it.
“Not yet.” I said aloud quietly. “I don’t want to cry just now.” Then I picked up my phone instead and composed a text:
Just boarded the train. Still departing on time. I’ll see you in eight hours!
The text sent just as a slight jerk signaled the train pulling out of the station. Once the conductor had made her way down the aisle and checked my ticket I put headphones in, turned on my e-reader, and made myself comfortable. The blurry city scene outside of the window slowly changed into rain-soaked farmland as I hurtled farther and farther away from all I had ever known.
Was I going towards something or running from something? Honestly I wasn’t sure. But I was sure of one thing: The place where I grew up and the people I loved so dearly were no longer where I called home. So that is why I began the journey: to find home. Those people and places would always hold a special place in my heart and would forever be a source of comfort to me, but “home” was calling from somewhere beyond what I knew and I had to go to it.
The bright red numbers on the alarm clock by the bed told me it was approaching 2 a.m., and I still wasn’t tired. After an eight-hour train ride followed by more hours of unpacking and arranging everything in my new room along with a few trips to the store, I fully expected to be exhausted. But I wasn’t. As the train had pulled into the station earlier that day, something came over me. I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but I could feel its intensity and, for whatever reason, I wasn’t afraid to give myself over to it. I stepped off the train into a city I had never been to before and yet everything felt familiar. Somehow I knew this place. But how? I had never been here before and my friend had only told me the basics of how to navigate the train station upon my arrival. I had shipped a few boxes of things ahead but otherwise had nothing to connect me to this city.
The strange feeling followed me throughout the remainder of the day, but as I sat on the edge of my bed and looked out of my downtown apartment window, I knew what it was. The familiarity with this city was deep within me somehow, like it had been calling out to me for years and I had only just tuned in to its voice. The city lights glistened below my window in the late hour of the night and I smiled. An excitement and joy welled up within me as I gave myself fully to the new sense of wonder. What laid before me? I honestly didn’t know and for the first time in my life I was not afraid of that. Would my dreams all be realized now? Something told me it didn’t matter so much if they came to pass as I have always imagined.
It was something I hadn’t known or felt since I was a young child. I could recall the last time too; I was sitting in my father’s lap watching as the night sky lit up with a spectacular Fourth of July Fireworks show. The smell of his cologne, the night air, and the lingering scent of sunscreen still fill my nose as I think back to that night. That feeling—well, it was deeper than a feeling really; it was a knowing—resonated in my soul once again and I stood and walked to the window. No matter what laid ahead I was eager to experience it all. I felt alive and free and full of a child-like wonder, which had been dormant for many years. But that night it had awakened. I was here. I was home.
Cover image by Julius Drost.
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