To be a wildflower.

I am home. I know because I am standing outside, barefoot, toes curling in the damp grass. I can’t do that in Rome; my feet would find nothing but pavement, which would scorch my skin in the blazing summer sun. Here, too, it will be a hot day. The dew is already warm against the soles of my feet. Thank god, we’ve had nothing but rain.

In an attempt to quiet my mind, I slump into the porch swing with a creak, and use my left foot to gently push the swing back and forth, while considering the view. There are cows. There is laundry.

I’m thinking about that time when my sister was small, and my dad handed her a butterfly net for her to entertain herself with in the yard. She returned ten minutes later with a bird. Needless to say, he was surprised. She was six.

I hear a baby crying. I look to my left and see Frank, the neighbour, pacing his yard with Oliver, his new baby, in his arms. My eyes take in the pool, the trampoline, the golden doodle trailing behind Frank and the baby…Frank is twenty-six.

I see my mom’s “indoor” cat dart into the flowers by the shed. The gardens have really taken off this year, and amongst the hostas and the glads, there are uninvited wildflowers springing up madly, whimsically, without pattern. They disrupt the order of the carefully planned flower bed, though I enjoy the effect of chaos that they bring.

The heat bugs start their chorus.

I look up at the sky, bright blue and without a cloud, and see a dragonfly the size of a bird lazily rising up towards the top of the large maple.

What time is it anyways?

Goodmorning! Calls Frank over the fence, over the sound of Oliver’s crying.

Goodmorning, I call back.

Maybe I’ll go pick some tomatoes.

Some nights.

There are no buses.

We’ve only been waiting for forty minutes.

Let’s just walk, it’s not coming.

It’s far.

Lets just walk. 

I was buzzing. Even when they griped and took off their heels to walk on the dirty, cold marciapiede, I grinned quietly to myself. It had been cool.

Florence, almost two years ago.

When we walked in, the space was almost empty. Saying, let’s find a spot was redundant, but I still wanted to choose a space to occupy.

We got drinks at the bar, mojito, mojito, mojito, (this was before my moscow mule phase or my chardonnay phase), then hovered near the edge of the room. The space was intimate. The lights were dim, and I could smell sweat and sense the filth on the floors hidden by those dimmed lights.

That must be them. Two beautiful girls and a guy with messy or curly hair and some sort of yellow wrapping that I suppose resembled a shirt were crossing the floor towards the small stage. What is he wearing? I stared. I lifted my eyes and we made eye contact, then he was entering a shadowed door, stage right.

They seem weird, what kind of music is this again?

Thanks for coming, you guys. 

We’re here for the free drink tickets.

An eclectic crowd began to gather. We sipped our drinks. We talked about nothing.

One of the editors breezed by and wrapped me up in a quick hug. The article was great, thanks again!

The three reappeared, stepping onto the stage. His name is Pierre-Luc, I said to the others. In stilted Italian, he said: Noi siamo Paupiere, into the mic. And then: Paupiere means eyelid in English. 

The music started. It was that lose yourself kind of sound, that vibration that makes you move, loose and easy, swaying, nodding twirling. I twirled. I moved to the front of the tight, pulsing crowd. He spotted me again. Momentary eye contact, then he was leaping off the stage. Oh god. He strolled along the front of the crowd, singing French words I didn’t understand into the mic. Everyone was dancing. Then I could feel his sweaty shoulder, with that strange yellow fabric, rubbing against mine as he continued to sing and dance. Please god, don’t pass me the mic. I swirled back into the crowd towards the others, them laughing uncontrollably. Ooooooh. He’s so weird.

I danced and danced. There was room on the floor for ample arm swinging and uncontrolled spinning. I was not in any place. French music, in an Italian club, in a sweaty scene that felt like any Saturday night back home. Eyes closed and I was lost.

After the show. Should we head out to catch the bus?

Let’s just stick around for a minute longer.

There they were, ordering cocktails. The crowd had moved in one glob from the front edge of the room, skirting the stage, to the back edge, skirting the bar. The band chatted amongst themselves. No one chatted with them, really. They were truly beautiful. The girl singer shoved him playfully. He glanced over, he knew where we were standing, I guess. She shoved him again, at which point he turned in an awkward half-circle, and was all of a sudden standing next to me.

Ciao.

Hello.

Bonsoir. 

I laughed. His bandmates laughed behind him. He looked older, up close.

Where are you from?

I’m Canadian too. Actually, we already spoke over email…I’m the girl who did the article, for the magazine, the interview?

What magazine?

Typical.

How’s your tour going?

Well, Italy is cool.

These are my friends.

Hi.

Hi.

That’s a very interesting…shirt thing you’re wearing.

Isn’t it? He whipped off the jacket he was wearing over top of the yellow item. Some French designer made it. I’m not sure what this is for… lifting up what could be a sleeve, but simply hung from the collar of the shirt, down his front. Could be, like, an extra long pocket?

Functional.

Yah. Picking up his jacket off the floor.

We chatted, we didn’t order another drink.

Uhmm, the bus, remember?

Right. We were leaving.

Oh, too bad. Goodnight.

I said ciao, and we walked out giggling.

We missed the bus.

 

By the time the fisherman returns.

By the time the fisherman returns I will have forgotten the six-letter word that makes my head feel heavy.

I will have grown my hair, and remembered the way that wet morning grass feels on my feet; or wet evening grass, as a fire crackles nearby.

By the time the heat bugs buzz in the afternoons, I will have stayed in the lake until sun-down,
until I know that the cool water is warmer than the air, until I use it like a blanket, until my lips have turned just a little bit blue.

My hands will have slipped on a mossy ladder.

I will have sneezed at dust dancing in sunbeams through barn windows.

By the time the season changes, I will have stopped looking over my shoulder.

My freckles will show.

I won’t be so aware of my teeth, attached to my jaw, attached to my neck, and the pressure that they carry.

I will stop feeling hungry.

By the time the sun hangs low at four, the scars will stop being scars and start being triumphant remnants of battles fought, battles lost and battles won.

I don’t knows will become pleasant surprises.

When the fisherman returns, I will be gone.

 

.

 

An ode to half-lives.

Sometimes I feel as though my life is a scattering of random happenings. My indecisiveness in the years after university and my inability to stay put for long have led to a trail of half-lives, all loved dearly and then left behind.
Having recently returned to Canada after one year away teaching English in Italy, one of my friends asked, “So when are you going back home?” to which another friend interjected with, “You mean when is she going back; this is her home.”
What is home, and where is mine?
I started thinking about all the places that I’ve called home, however temporary, and how quickly that label shifts from a small room in my parents house in my first year of undergraduate, to an attic apartment in Peterborough, Ontario, shared with a bohemian friend, to an air mattress on a living room floor in Toronto. “My city,” has changed from Peterborough, to Dublin, to Florence, to Toronto to Rome. I loved and resented each place in various ways.
A funny thing happens when you change cities once, twice, then change countries or continents. Whereas previously, home was an uncomplicated term, I had now gained a collection, dragging along with me like those tin cans pulled behind a car after a wedding: loudly announcing the fact that you had experienced a life change, and indicating your un-sameness and inability to be exactly the same as you were before, for better or worse.
Whenever I return from time spent away, those closest to me say that my smell has changed. My speech patterns, the way I pronounce the letter ‘a,’ the expressions that settle among my features while I listen, while I speak.
This year in Rome was difficult. I had never felt quite so out of place. Sometimes I wanted to crawl out of my skin, I felt so blatantly foreign. So out of my element. I fought a fierce battle with that city, and I can’t say if I won or lost. The first months I diligently explored, I went to events, to the main “spots,” and tried to pretend I didn’t hate it, didn’t feel overwhelmed by the crowds, feel too hot, too under-dressed. Then came acceptance. “I hate it here. Next year I’m moving.”
But when I did leave, I felt strangely tearful. My roommates, my friends, that eclectic group of internationals, those late night dinners in our little yellow kitchen and cheap wine, wandering around the city for hours trying to decide where to go, until we didn’t go anywhere but home. Waking up late for trains, throwing bathing suits and towels into a bag and going to the sea to doze in the sun.
Another half life for the collection.
Every one that I gain shakes my concept of home just a little bit harder. As I reach the age where friends have houses and babies and nine-to-fives, I start questioning everything. I start wondering if I should have built a less mobile life. If I need to go home.
…if I could only decide which one.