When I think about that summer, the taste of blueberries and salt air comes to me. I remember cake crumbs strewn across an empty plate, the lingering taste of bitter coffee, not the way I would have made it. Accepting other people’s food, because I didn’t have my own kitchen. The way my stomach was upset from being in so many different places except for one that felt like safety. The unsettled season, I called it in my head. The one that felt like I was in the middle of a cartwheel, where up is down, and there’s that moment of wild terror mixed with a kind of dark glee – will I land on my feet again? So I took refuge in other people’s homes. Like if I stayed in enough of them, I’d manage to manifest my own. A beach house on the Cape in July, where I made strawberry jam that never quite set. A friend’s bedroom, lit with Christmas lights in August. I spent one rainy afternoon zesting lemons over a steel bowl, then mixing the zest with sugar until the sour became sweet. I always moved on before sunset, one ear cocked over my shoulder. Perpetually a breath away from saying, “No, sorry, I’ve got to go.” Go where? the salt air kept asking. I had no answer for it. Stray cat, a lover called me. I relied on the ocean, on the steadiness of the tides. I relied on tiny, crucial kindnesses from people whose hands I had first shaken five minutes before. When I saw the first leaf change in the fall, I cried in relief, and I knew I would find solid ground again.
published 23 September 2016