I have the ability to make myself at home just about anywhere. For me, home is where I sleep. With a quality pair of earplugs, I can sleep just about anywhere. (Including 60 year old refugee camps.) I have done my fair share of squatting, too. I once survived for a week of college "Beach Week" activities by sleeping on the covered deck of an empty home, making use of outdoor showers, and enjoying various social invitations to fraternity party cocktail BBQ's. The absolute worst place I ever slept was in the hotel brothel I stayed at with Dr. B last year during our trip to Petra, Jordan. When backpacking through Europe once, Bro and I regularly enjoyed the luxury of overnight sleeping compartments on moving trains. We once swindled a hot shower out of an Italian youth hostel manager, but vanished into the night before paying for a bed. I have also thoroughly enjoyed myself at the London Ritz. Go figure.
A former love partner wrote me an email this morning. He had a stopover in Istanbul, and wanted to say hello before he carries on to do the work he's been sent to do in a small village in the Turkish interior, where he will no doubt save the world, breastfeed a few babies, have a few more marriage proposals, and do big and important things (like cure cancer and end world hunger) with the aid of his pocket knife and charming personality. Last week, he sent me pictures of a very impressive hike he took in the White Desert, about 600km SW of Cairo. The pictures were amazing, and, yes, I silently made a note to self: "Go there".
In his email, my former love partner requested to know what I am up to these days...
I laughed when I considered the many ways that I could respond...
The truth is that I woke up this morning and walked down to the street to the gas station that sells milk, eggs and cheese. I was wearing my glasses, my hair piled in a crazy knot on top of my head, the pair of faded jeans that I bought in Israel 2 years ago, a tight black shirt, flip-flops and no bra. I was sexually harassed by two man standing behind me in the cashier line, and I pretended not to hear the comments they made about my body, and most especially, my derriere. One of the nice men followed me out of the store, and called after me. He requested to know my name. However, I wasn't in the mood to play the game of smiling to acknowledge his advances and then embarrassing him in front of his friend, so I continued to pretend as though I was a deaf-mute. It caused me to wonder if men such as this ever stop to wonder why women like me scatter away from them as quickly as possible. It also caused me to wonder about the women who actually welcome and enjoy this sort of aggression from strange men in public places. Finally, it also caused me to wonder why there seems to be a statistically strong correlation between men who enjoy grunting and commenting openly about my body, most especially those who wear old t-shirts cut out to display the hair in their armpits?
But I didn't write this in the email.
I also didn't write about my short walk home with my groceries, in which I found myself remembering with fondness all of the walking I did a year ago when living in the Middle East. I didn't mention how it occurred to me that living in America is really so easy. It's so soft and silent. I can go to a grocery store here, and the person at the checkout counter always bags my groceries, giving me the option of "paper or plastic?" and tells me to have a nice day. I didn't mention how I still have a tendency to cross the street as if I never left the Middle East, and this completely freaks out American drivers who are not accustomed to having a human being so close to their car.
I also didn't mention that on a good day, I am bored. On a less than good day, I am really, really bored. And yet, I am passively observing my boredom while actively enjoying it.
When it is all said and done, this will go down in the books as "The Summer That I Stayed Put". There is no doubt that adventures in the White Desert of Egypt await me. For now, I'm trying to make time in my busy writing schedule to hike the waterfalls in the New York Fingerlake region. Again, go figure.
And, so I wrote back to my old friend with the enthusiasm and gusto that he has always loved about me, wishing him the best of fun and the safest of travels. He is the last person on earth that needs to be reminded that sometimes, we need to unpack the bags and stay in one place. Sometimes we need to assess what we carry with us and unload ourselves of the burdens we've taken on. Sometimes, though, doing this is not as carefree and breezy as it sounds. It is hard work, but necessary. There are some people in this world, who are born to be the conductors of experience. We are the mediums through which things must pass--people, places, events, emotions. We are not these people, these places, these events, or these emotions. And sometimes, we need to remind ourselves of this.
A year ago, if someone had told me that I would be writing my doctoral dissertation in the middle of an American version of "nowhere", I would have laughed with good humor. But am here, now, unpacked as much as possible, and making eggs on a Sunday morning. I am enjoying a cup of coffee from a French press and the air from the nearby lake. I am somewhere. Always somewhere, I suppose. (Strange and foreign though it may be.)
...And so I am digging in rather than spinning out. Of course, I didn't write that either.
(But I am.)
What a journey.