I am driving down Hull Street Road, coffee in the holster, string cheese in my teeth, driving into the sunrise. I am back in this town with my boots strapped on tight and my coat swishing at my knees when I walk, so I can run on the ice and so I might not get seen if you look at me from behind. My hair is brown now, like I want to take a shadow and paint it over my energy and slip along the side of the wall away from those walking toward me.
We walk our days out in cycles, circles on circles, turning into each other and kissing and turning away to meet the next thing before coming back again, later. Richmond is a boomerang town, they told me. I laugh and I know. These trees by the river know me, all my faces. I walk along at Pony Pasture with a friend and I forget who I’ve been there with. It all runs together, circles on circles, meeting the place in time immaterial with those I love, over and over. The story is the same. Am I chasing a destination in a straight line or am I running along behind myself, trusting that she knows where to go—have we been here before? I think we must have. I’ll keep running. The trees remember me. The ground still tells me stories.
I run around, a spider clinging to the center of her web, overwhelmed and frozen by the vibrations hitting her from each side of the strands she’s set, each tying her to a piece of life that she has claimed as her own. It’s windy here and the sun is opaque and distant, cuddling the mist and turning her back to me. I’m not in California anymore. I do not have the sharp lines of sunlight and dust and salt to cut up my day into spaces that are mine or not mine. I melt into the hours and the interactions, we sink into blankets on the couch and the ownership of feet is forgotten. My sisters and I are the same skin and voices and we circle in and out of each others’ days—who did I tell that to? Is this hers or mine? I had to stop eating that, your body might too. We laugh in cycles. It’s good. But I have no borders. Even when I close my door, my new phone buzzes and chirps and my mind becomes a set of tiny spinning gears and I chase the circuit around this circle and into the next and into the one below before getting tossed up to that one just up there.
My heart is warm. I have so much love for these people, for these places. But I have woken up here from an enchantment, a moment of life between dreams. They are the same, and they are not the same. We hold hands and move in the same steps as before, but I notice things I never saw before—how she carries her weight in her hips now, how his voice is more kind, how the fear in her eyes has eroded her shoulders, too. And I wonder if this is the dream or if this is the real life? Seven weeks left and then I pass into the next spell, a large and weighty unknown which has my name and is going to swallow me up. And I plan to submit to it, to ask it questions, to wait for it to teach me. So here I am, here, but not here, but unable to slip backward or forward—both feel dreamlike and opiate. I do not know if I actually kissed the stars or swam in the cold water. I do not know if I will be cold and catch the light. I do not know if my tongue tasted you or if it will shape strange sounds.
I am here. The hollowness of this house spins me around. There are whole patches of carpet I do not dare to dance on, whole shelves in my closet that I pretend do not exist. The street beyond the driveway might be water, and I might suddenly have weight and sink into it if I touched it. You might become real if I let you touch me.
Of course I cannot see the stars here—this must be a dream. Or maybe, the stars never were, and I have woken to my future.
I applied to the Peace Corps last summer. I got my invitation in November. I accepted. I got my medical clearance last week. I’m waiting on my visa. My passport has my new [own] name on it. I’ll be volunteering as an English teacher to primarily middle school and high school students, but I won’t know the details of my assignment or my exact placement until this summer. If all goes according to plan, I’m leaving for Kyrgyzstan for two years at the end of April.
And: if I put together a chapbook of some of my poems and made it available for download for a couple bucks, would you like that?