Sometimes when I take a cab home from church, I stare out the window at nighttime Bath—all lit up and glowing and gold—and I feel a little sick. This city is beautiful and full of promise. It has been here for centuries. It will remain here for centuries.
It stays. I move.
It’s like I’m learning to miss it and I am still here.
I’ve started to recognize this feeling more and more. Perhaps because of the changing seasons, perhaps because my arthritis seems to be on the verge of flaring, perhaps because I can’t seem to shake this everlasting cold. But sometimes I stare out my window at the beautiful English countryside and I feel at once blessed and unanchored.
The feeling is similar to homesickness, but without the home bit. I do not miss a particular person or place or thing. I miss being cooped up with my boss and talking about Star Wars. I miss the feeling of hope and possibility that flooded through me when I smelled the ocean from our house in Chesapeake, that one time. I miss being tackled by my kids in Central Asia and the way they shouted, “We found you!”
One time my family went back to Milton and found our old house. The mailbox—a tin, vintage, possibly hick old thing—still had our last name stenciled on the side, though we hadn’t lived there in about five years. Even though it wasn’t our home anymore.
I am tired of being the thing that moves through, the variable that changes. I am Desmond without Penny—lacking my constant. The thought of settling somewhere for any length of time is soul killing. The thought of passing through in one or two year stints is exhausting.
Maybe it’s not that I’m passing through but that the world is passing me.
I was sitting on a hillside last week, reading by the railroad tracks. A train went by. I looked up and turned to watch it pass. In the course of the hour as I read, several trains passed me.
I love riding trains and staring out the window because sometimes everything—the brush, the trees—parts and you get a glimpse, a snapshot, of life. A living photograph you see for a flash (teenagers planting flowers, a dad and his daughter biking, hikers striking out for a mountain). It’s only for second—less, even—and then gone.
As I read, I heard the high pitched buzz of the line, and then the train whizzing by behind my back, and I realized I was the snapshot.
I was the girl on the hillside, reading. There a second—less—then gone.
I am the main character of my story, but the very most minor character in other, equally important stories—the minor character not even worth a mention. I am the girl on the hillside reading, for a second and forever in the memory of strangers whose faces I’ll never see.
I am the variable and I am the moment. I am a thing permanent in a world that is temporary.
I think timesickness is a symptom of being alive.