I meet a boy backstage.
My bandmates say I should learn to make friends with those in lineups, like the music scene is one big sandbox and we’re all preschoolers trying to get along. I like his songs, but never go over well with strangers. Something about my earnestness always translates into “Warning: DANGER!” And not the delicious kind.
But his eyes are kind, and staring at pressed pages–a book has always been my salvation. Thanks to my liberal arts education lit is an area that I can hold my own in, ask the right questions, get people to talk at length. After all, how hard is it to nod and make friendly sounds? Maybe I won’t scare this one away, now. Maybe I’ll make a friend today. “How are you liking it?” I ask him, gesturing to the volume in his hands, hoping my voice does not betray how dense the air suddenly feels. Social anxiety is real, and maybe he sees because he leads with, “My girlfriend’s taking this course up, and I wanted to understand her better.” and for all my platonic intentions I take that as a signal to back away. The fact I am female and eager and earnest is not in my favor today. I make a throwaway comment–a very lib arts moment–and scamper off to berate my bandmates for pushing the boundaries of my agoraphobia.
Only later, much later, do I realize that I was not a perceived threat. Instead, those words reflected a truth I’ve only ever experienced as a three-year-old waiting for Mum to come home from London or Mumbai or LA: that those you love can’t always stay in one place, but you love to the point that you make them present, even in their absence. This is an impulse that rings of nature; love pours out of him like water, his first instinct to reference an other existing in a different timezone. My Philosophy professor once told me loving meant your soul stopped being your own–a piece of it breaks off, sleeps while you’re waking, readjusts its circadian rhythms to match the one you saw fit to give it to. “It isn’t you,” the subtext says, “Just that I see her everywhere she isn’t, because I can’t yet be where she is.”
I don’t know what it’s like to let your center wander outward. I’ve only ever loved in a way that makes proximity painful and distance a relief. The results are the same–that love pours out like water–but look different. Mine is the shake of an unstable atlas. His is the smile of a steadied compass.
Somewhere, across oceans of clouds, a girl can re-orient herself where home is.
I don’t know yet where home is. But at least now I know what it might look like.