Last night I watched the sunset, the reverse of what happened exactly a week ago. It was almost like this whole week, with its Monday and its Tuesday and its plane trips and its car rides and its hurricanes, had been one long day, thick with weather. We sat on the top of the hill we had hiked to, on an old army blanket and ate sandwiches. Jets kept destroying the sky. Below was gravel, a burn-pile. Further below was road and road-sounds, but I tried not to look below. I tried to keep my eyes on the mountain. It was a different mountain, lower, with a crown of thin fog, and in the distance, a cellular tower, but still a mountain.
Up here, I can imagine we’re somewhere more exciting, I said.
Like where? my friend said.
Like Oregon, I said.
How is Oregon more exciting than here?
Because I haven’t been there.
I much prefer the sunrise, the day opening up, all that time. After the sunset, cold came quickly. We walked down in the dark, grown suddenly silent, and I couldn’t help but cast long, envious glances into the trees, gray and thick and empty but not empty. I wanted to go deep inside them. I wanted to see something big. All my time in Vermont, I wanted to see it; I waited to see it: the bear or the moose or the coyote, the big sign. After sunset, what was left but driving back, unpacking, washing dishes, setting out clothes, unraveling the sheets, getting into them? I miss my new friends. I feel like a stranger in my old life. I miss the life that was promised to me, the one with wide open spaces and time.
On the long ride back, a week late, in the wrong state, then, I saw it: the big sign, the burst of feather crouched by the side of the road, golden in our headlights. I thought it was a hawk, then a hit turkey, then dead. But we slowed and it became alive. It became white and plumed, became a barred owl, eating its catch, magnified, huge. It stared at us. It waited, then it flew.
I don’t think California will be my home. I go there not expecting to stay. I go there thinking this is the last time before the last time I’ll go. You always find love when you’re not looking, he said. I know. But I’m always looking, and I always find it. That’s part of my problem. I can find something to love in almost anything. I can live almost anywhere. So when do I find home?
She’ll stare at you. She’ll wait, then she’ll fly.
I don’t know what they are thinking, those displaced by the storm in strange cities, those in cities made strange by refugees. I don’t know what you are thinking. But I know what I am thinking. It ran through my head as we sped down the dark roads on our way to somewhere else, the curves, the country, past all of those lonely houses, their kitchens, their televisions, their upstairs bedrooms, their fields: home, home, home.
I wanted to be in one of them. I wanted to be there, finally. I wanted to be found.