There are no pictures to include with this post. The only images that could work are the blurry memories that make a sort of mental montage across your frontal lobe when you find yourself somewhere that no matter how strange, unfamiliar or surreal, is unquestionably the place from whence you come. The last few days have brought forth quite a few noteworthy moments: a shared family history, an unusual requisition of help, an Englishman in California, a runaway cat, a dive bar of unprecedented depths, a funeral… an acknowledgement that “this must be the place.”
I attended a funeral this morning. It was a solemn affair acknowledging a death that came to soon, the result heartbreaking suffering. In some ways I guess one could say that of many funerals. As the mass began and I looked around, I considered all these people I have known. People I have known. I don’t know them all anymore, if I ever did, in any way that I can remember in concrete terms. But I know them still. We seem to share something that I have been unable to articulate effectively: we come from here. Right here. And to be fair, that is about all we have in common. Strangely, it seems to be enough.
Tomorrow will mark two weeks since I arrived at SFO, cat in tow, to see what I would find back in the Bay Area after five years in Asia. I have been totally surprised and had my expectations completely met at the same time, sometimes in the same moment. I have decided to really try to feel where I want to be next, and the answers surprised me, but make total sense. I turned to the most logical sources of guidance and the most unlikely. The combination is bearing interesting fruit. It is strange to be in a position to ask for help like this and it is not entirely comfortable, but I am blown away at the network of support I feel like I have fallen into. I am so grateful.
Nothing seems scary. Or daunting. Or all that bad.
Last night as I was finishing up a surprisingly pleasant dinner, the kind that go on for hours and you don’t realize it until you see the incredibly patient people in the restaurant starting to close up, I checked my phone. There were more missed calls than I could comprehend. Of course this would be bad news. My cat had done a runner. Seriously? Seriously. So here I am contemplating the fact that I would rather be naked in front of this individual than cry in his presence and I am considering that the cat I flew eight thousand miles so she would stay with me, the cat that remained after her brother left us with no explanation, might be gone. Could I really be losing both my cats in less than three months? I could not cry. I would not cry. I did not know what to do. The reality was presented to me from the person across the table: We would go look for her. Of course we would, what other option could there be? And with that we drove the 45 minutes back to the scene of the escape. Met by a frantic friend, neé sister who, though a dog-person through and through, had wracked her brain to consider the how, what, where of cat rescue. What to do? We walked here and there. I remained detached. This was out of my hands. We walked and talked. I tried to adopt some perspective and think of the suffering in the world; not just the world, what about the funeral that I would attend in twelve short hours? Matilda was nowhere. We returned to the house. What to do?
And then there she was. At the exact place where she had taken her leave. Giving attitude. I love cats. And at that moment, I loved everyone in the room. Even the wiener dogs who had precipitated the cat flushing. And then I wanted a drink.
Enter the local dive bar scene. [So many dives, so little hand sanitizer.] To the Hideway it was. The type of people who frequent a dive bar around midnight in the town where I am from are – different. “You are from this town?” Comes the question with good humo(u)r from across the table. I contemplate my circumstantial distinction from the surrounding folk and also the infinitesimal uniqeness in DNA among all mammals and I laugh.
“Yes, I am from here.”
I am not sure I will stay here. And I cannot help but feel a little sadness when I look in the faces of the people at the bar and know that I did know some of them a lifetime ago, but it has been so long in time and experience that none of us are sure, no one can really place the face, the names seem to dissipate in beer scented air. I cover my mouth with one hand to hide a smile that could easily be misconstrued. I have good hands for that. “I am from here.”
Hiking out at the Point Reyes National Seashore I hear my friend tell me that he can’t believe we didn’t take more advantage of the place we come from. I am glad that for us it is not too late. I have written a lot about “home,” as both concrete and abstract notion. I suppose in fairness it is always both.
And that is incredibly freeing.