There was no hiding from sleep. Hushed, it crept through doors or windows, with all the familiarity of a cat too comfortable in its own domain to announce itself at the door. On padded feet, it might climb the stairs, ease itself into a room. On the space of a blink, it slipped in a shadow, then seated itself boldly in the corner. Not there, and then there all at once, calm and unsurprising. It was always there, prepared.
But Nesha could run from sleep. She drank her hot drinks, kept her hands busy, kept her feet moving. There were always small stacks of things to do and always thoughts to chase around her head. It didn’t matter that sleep was a quick-sand thing, gripping her all the firmer for how hard she kicked against it. Tugging her down more forcefully after each attempt to push it away. She tipped her head back to drag in waking air and ignored the way it pulled at her ankles.
My father and I drove to the airport this morning. We left the apartment at six in the morning, and spent three hours in the car together, talking quietly, slowly waking up, crawling through Los Angeles traffic to pull up the the drop-off curb. We both got out. He handed me the keys, and took his luggage out of the trunk, and I said my last good-bye in this long-haul across the country.
Immediately afterward, I got in the car, focused on what I had to do next. I had never driven in a city like Los Angeles before. Because of how I’ve gone about getting my driver’s license, I also had never driven alone for more than a quarter of a mile. Now, I had two hours of solitary driving ahead of me. I was excited for the sense of independence, mildly anxious at the idea of getting lost, and distracted by the vague haze of the early morning.
(I’ve been listening to this song since I was fourteen years old.
I finally learned how to follow instructions.)
I’m sitting in my little sister’s dorm room right now. It’s an easy place to kick up my feet.
I went to this school, too, four years ago. I lived in a nearly identical room, with nearly identical white walls, and… if you told me that I was the one that put that long scratch into the speckled linoleum floor, I could tell you the story of the daring day that I bent the world to my will and slid all the way across the room on a chair that was never meant to slide. This place is familiar. This place is comfortable. This place built me, I built it, and it seems alive enough to call a very old friend.
It is a strange first stop on my way across the country. I don’t yet feel like I have left home.
I know I’m not going to be wandering back down the street I’ve lived on for fifteen years for some unknown number of months or years, but it’s a detached sort of knowing. I know I hugged my brother good-bye last night, and my mother and sister good-bye this morning, and it’s an ache that I can’t quite weigh.