On the way home from the airport, we pass a street we normally would have taken, that leads to a house that now some creepy faceless people are living in. They are sleeping in the room I used to sneak boys into, swimming in the pool I used to jump from the roof into, cooking in the kitchen I used to fight tooth and nail not to have to clean, slamming doors I once defiantly slammed for effect. They check their mail from the box I got the my pen pal letters from, my college acceptance letters from. It's all very violating.
Then we arrive "home" to a massive, cold house where my parents now live, an unfamiliar place where I don't know where any of the light switches are. In the middle of the night, jet lagged, I essay the house for shreds of home (and to self-flagellate with my memories like I tend to do). There's that end table my mom got in the divorce, the family picture from 1989 where we were all wearing matching sweaters that is cheesy as hell, my mom's Women's Anatomy book that I learned about the female orgasm from, the lighthouse lamp that used to sit on top of the piano that was always lit when I came home way past my curfew. These little pieces of "home", all this shit from my childhood, is as if on display in a giant, overly air-conditioned museum. It's mildly nauseating.
Then I go outside at 4 a.m. and feel the rush of hot air, the smell of summer grass and orange groves, the dawn coming earlier than anywhere I've ever known. I see lightning from an electrical storm far off. People are already walking their dogs. And I remember the city, beyond the back wall, the only city I can ever call home, with its hot hair dryer breeze, its desolate, sad strip malls with all their convenient, solitary familiarity. And I think, "Oh yeah. Home." And it ties my stomach up in knots and reminds me of the vast, sad distance that normally separates me from this and the abyss of time that has passed since I've seen these shreds of home.