Poem: The Long Way

Homesickness.

It’s not just the yearning.

It’s the feeling in your gut when you’re sitting at a frat party, surrounded by students, but your eye is on the one you pass on the way to bioethics. You watch him as he shuffles a little bit of weed with an Apples to Apples card labeled “Going to Church” on a busted coffee table. It’s that feeling that you never knew him, that that vague assumption (or maybe a hope) that maybe they would go home after class and perhaps call their girlfriend back at home because that bad painting from the 70’s in the lecture hall reminded him of her, is gone. You think about this as you walk through the exotic house and watch other people you thought you knew.

It’s that disappointment when you throw open your apartment door, just for fresh air, and you’re greeted with the neighbor three doors down smoking a cigarette on the stairs, and he has a weird smile and heightened wavering pitch in his voice when he says “heeeyyy.” It’s the feeling that it really is too late to turn around or close the door, because that would be rude and weird, and your parents would have liked you to try and not be rude. Homesickness is staying with that neighbor, just to hear him talk about how he wanted to get out of Iowa, how there was nothing back there, and you think to yourself, then why the hell did you come here?

Homesickness is the bills, the nostalgia for childhood when you didn’t get three emails telling you that you’ve overdrawn your account because you added it up wrong. You were never good at math. It’s not being good at math, it’s being able to add up on the first try that all that money you worked so hard for over the summer really is just going to go to rent money, to loan bills, to food, and you remember how you had had that one drifting thought of maybe buying a motorcycle, or just maybe trying to save your money.

Homesickness is the gurgle of a chuckle that comes out of your throat when you remember that thought as you transfer 500 more from your savings into your checking, and the four digit number ticks to three.

It’s the frustration of realizing that you don’t really have the right pan to make your mother’s signature french toast, but you try to do it anyway with what you have. You think you won’t mess it up, because you’ve never messed up something so easy, something so natural to you. It’s the denial in the end, because it’s too soggy and not cooked through, but since you don’t want to waste the bread you bought with your savings, you eat it anyway, drowning it in Wal-mart maple syrup.

It’s when you find that your only comfort is looking out your window, even though it’s not facing the direction of where home is. It’s looking over the fields in the back of your apartment and seeing how far they stretch, and being able to see the layers of green that are slowly turning to gold. It’s looking out the window and seeing the light from the little airstrip, watching it blink brightly in the night, and you feel yourself yearning for the past like some Fitzgerald novel.

It’s the comfort in knowing that despite all the gut wrenching, the loneliness, the deceit, the nostalgia, and how the simplest task of turning on your phone could make all those feelings come back, you can just step outside and walk into the fields. You can keep walking, not knowing where you’re going and feel the infinity. It’s the comfort in knowing that you can do that, and if you really wanted to, you would still have the choice to turn back.