Me in 2000, a set of provisional spaces
I saw a succession of spaces: renovated downtown loftlike apartments near the river, little cottages in old neighborhoods, tiny duplexes with large gardens, rambling anonymous apartment complexes with all amenities and utilities included in the rent.
I’d walk through each one, floating behind the landlord or the realtor like a vapor trail, weaving through the rooms as steps echoes in the empty space. With some of them, I could hear Led Zeppelin coming through the walls from neighbors, the smell of lemony-garlic pasta being prepared for supper across the hall, tiny holes in the walls where pictures must’ve hung. I asked myself the question: could I live here?
I had a list of requirements, of course: a certain amount of rent I could pay, a desire for a place of my own, not a studio, a decent kitchen so I could cook, Wi-Fi-capable. Everything else was a possibility, a probability to be weighed. But a home isn’t just a list of characteristics, in the same way that a lover is not just a list of traits you’d like someone to have. A home is a feeling; I was looking for the echo of that feeling — tucked away in a small room, wafting on a back porch, maybe lurking in the way the light showers through a skylight in the afternoon.
I have been without a home for a long time. I was basically what I call a slow-moving nomad, content to stay at a place here and there for a few months at a time, and then finding my way back to my home of origin in the interstitial interludes. Not homeless — I have shelter and have had the good fortune of equally nomadic friends who need homes and cats and plants tended to in their absence. I was content for so long to wander in my slow, peripatetic way, living out of a few suitcases.
And then my father got sick, and I came home in the fall. And then I stayed. And maybe it is getting older, or that wandering was more tiresome than I realized, but I realized there are pleasure to staying where you are. I realized a lot of things, as if a flock of meditations and thoughts finally caught up with me, settled in and worked their way though my system. It was almost as if I went into an existential deep sleep, the kind you get after jet lag, and your body is trying to align itself to a new time zone. I woke up and felt like a strangely new version of myself.
This new person needed time: time to realign the structures of my life, tidy up loose ends from the previous incarnations, try out a set of newly feathered wings, feel the contours of the earth with a new set of shoes. And when all this was done — and it takes long, longer than I’d thought — it was time to find this new person a home.
But what is home? where the heart is, where you hang your hat, near your loved ones, where you feel the most alive,w where you feel the most restless, a platform from which you leap from. It is a major root, a stake in the ground. For years New York seemed to be my home, and I thought that it would stay that way forever. But then I realized it was my new continent, my sea voyage, my Odysseus-like journey — a place to ramble and explore and upturn the soil.
In the end, it came down to the question of where I wanted to grow old. No one likes to think much about growing old, especially in the fullness of youth, but there comes a point when it’s not a complete blank or adject horror to contemplate the question, as large and inchaote as it is. When considering the endgame of it all, the answer was clear: trees, horses, the large embrace of family, the landscape of my childhood and my most unique imaginations. I suspect that near the end of my days, my primary affections will be to a plot of land, a home full of instruments and photos and suppers served around a large table in the candlelight.
In the end, it was warmth at first sight. I walked into the place, and while it wasn’t the fanciest of places, I could see where I would hang my Godard posters. I could see where I’d put a sofa. I liked the way the light streamed into the place in the morning, when I needed it most. My landlord had genuine friendliness in his voice; I liked hearing the small children next door play nearby. I got a hearthlike feeling from it, as modest as it is, and it was close to the things that mattered to me: roads that could take me either in the direction of the nearest metropolis, or deeper into the country where fields of horses gamboled at stables. I’m excited to move in and to finally call a place home.