This is my 21st move. I am 31 years old, and my first move occurred when I was 10. They have not been regular moves, one a year, every year. They have come in stuttering starts and halts, two or three a year in college when my dorm space was my only residence, a few before and after into odd spots, filling the in-betweens, until I settled in with a boyfriend in a small town that slowly strangled me.
This week, I am uncurling into a small studio in a city I love, sorting through objects which may or may not have meaning to me. The books are the most burdensome. They are the hardest to let go of, even the ones I don’t need.
I fell in love with this little place: the overgrown garden with its clothing-optional pool where I do yoga every morning, my little kitchenette where I cook big and save leftovers for the week. They are things I love, even though I do not yet have internet of my own. And when I signed? I was careful. I tested the water. I tested the lights.
But a week in, the main light overhead began to flicker. The power company came out late one evening and shut off electricity to the house. After they switched it back on? The fridge rumbled oddly, and the AC labored when the lights were on. This is without anything of my own being plugged in. And I haven’t much to plug in. Just a phone to charge, a grinder for my coffee, and my computer: a little laptop.
The peculiarity of my situation came clear today: I plugged a strand of lights into a surge protector, and the the strip popped in my hand, threw off sparks, and filled the air with smoke and ozone.
I think this is something to laugh about. On move 22.
Good morning, stars. Good morning, Geminids, streaking even this light-polluted dingy sky with sparks and the fire of atmospheric entry.
I didn’t go to sleep, so I didn’t have to wake up. The south Florida air was crisp, too chill for sun lizards like me. I brought my own heat rock: a rainbow leopard print blanket. Armed with naked eyes, I stared up into the vast night.
And I saw them. Falling embers from off our world, burning up on entry. I said hello to Orion (as is customary), and crouched down, face skyward, laughing like a little girl until I started crying, big wracking sobs of relief and joy and wonder.
I stayed out there until my nose ran. I stayed out there well past the time I’d spotted any bright debris lighting the night in its fall. I stayed out there feeling small and safe and insignificant. Insignificance is a great form of safety.
When I was ready to creep back in, I wiped my nose on my jeans and choked out another laugh. It sounded more like a bark. What do you do after that? After watching the heavens rain down upon your blue bubble so fragile, so temporary?
You hug yourself, huddled in your rainbow blanket, and compose love letters to the sun and the far arms of the Milky Way.
Lynx is a top-sail schooner. It has two masts. Its deck is made of Douglas fir. It is anchored along River Walk in Fort Lauderdale right now, and I know this because I am given to night wanderings, and I wandered by.
It’s too much to bear, the rigging there like bodice lacings. I want, have wanted since I was a girl, to sail. But sailing is a rich kid’s hobby, and there are no more wooden sailing vessels like fluyt ships and frigates… only there are, and there’s one here: Lynx. Schooner. And I am sitting in front of it, numbly, dumbly trying to take pictures in the half-dark, the sodium arc gilded dim of Fort Lauderdale’s downtown night-stirrings. I want, and that wanting feels the way I’d always imagined seasickness must feel, but I have never been sea sick, even out on small ships in rough waters in the Gulf.
So I make a pact. In a year, I will run away to crew a tall ship. In a year— I will give it time, you see— if I have not cobbled my life into something more stable, I will throw stability to the wind. I’ve lived without it this long.
Because I am a selkie without a skin. What’s really stopping me from going home?
I am sitting and writing at the kitchen table. It is not my kitchen. I am looking after cats who are equally not mine. There is no curtain, and the light is bright tumbling through open blinds. It feels warm. It makes the world inviting.
I am watching a parade, a shadow parade. The power lines are dark stripes of blocked light on the wall of the building next door. There are seven squirrels, maybe more, running back and forth over them. Their shadows fascinate the cats more than any toy ever could. They travel in shooting gallery rows. They travel like camel caravans. They flash movement and my eyes are drawn away from my screen.
This is probably a turf war, not clowning. But I don’t speak their language, so I don’t know for sure what it means when one scurries out, and stops dead in the middle of the line, shadow paused, and another comes up from behind, pounces and races back the way he came. The victim only follows for an instant. Then he resumes in the original direction, finishes his tightrope walk as I finish my text, and he’ll never know that I was watching, hidden inside.