In my world, there are no straight lines.
There is no single road that will take you back to my origin. My time is marked only by people and the smoke signals cast up from the wildfires of my heart. Sometimes the fire burns low — but it hasn’t gone out yet. While things smolder here, I yearn for the heat of my childhood fire. And, like a migrant bird that moves with the seasons, I know where to go.
Tomorrow, I fly East. Back to my home. There, I will plug-in to the people that have kept me lit up for as long as I’ve been gone, down, and lost. Extension cords across a nation. Beacons and anchors.
When I booked my flight, I imagined my trip as the great escape. My chance to flee all the ghosts that I’ve been dancing with for the past few months. I could see it — My mother’s actual shoulder, ready for my tears, instead of my neck craned over my own as I weep into the phone. My father, sitting on the couch, turning inky newspaper pages while the smell of coffee circulates under the ceiling fan. My cousins, making wise cracks on the deck, all with pasty white, Irish skin — reflecting the sun in their two-piece bathing suits — wet hair wrapped up in old, weathered beach towels. My grandparents, like pigs in shit — surrounded by their clan — we unite, flanking all sides of their home. These people, these moments — they are not meant to facilitate my escape, but, instead, to bring me back to life. They revive my spirit with a power I have never known in my solitude.
These are the real things in life to hold fast to — Family. Love. Home. — You will forget until your crooked lines remind you.
This year has been sobering. I’ve watched myself morph. I’ve watched the people around me walk in and out of shadows. I have new, deep scars that I will wear forever — with pride. And, to my surprise, it’s got nothing to do with the drink. It’s more to do with the fact I haven’t needed one. Yes, crooked lines were drawn, but each end meets its own Mecca.
Sometimes, the breeze off the Willamette River smells like a summer’s day in New York. I hold that air in my lungs. I long for the people that kept me once as a child, who love me still — miles apart. They still follow my path, like the tip of a finger on a map. They stay the course, however deviant. They see, in me, something simple. We live inside each other. My heart knows these people — we are the saviors and the saved.
Kindred — We know the easiest and the most difficult kind of love.
We have come as we are. We accept each other this way — The mess on the dining room table. The 10 extra pounds. The broken heart. The busted tail light. The empty wallet. It’s there. It’s ours. It’s us. On display. They take me. I take them. They love me. And I, — I love them back — their messes and their pounds and their hearts all the same.
So, just this once, I draw a straight line through the clouds.
Metal bird, take me as the crow flies — not to my escape — but to my return.
**ARTWORK CREDIT: Andrew Wyeth, ‘Crows, Study for Woodshed,’ 1944. Watercolor on paper laid down on board.**