Dear Scar Tissue,
I want my softness to be safe.
– from “Black Peculiar :: Energy Complex” by Khadijah Queen
Yesterday afternoon, I drove the Southside, down Hull Street, past more cash loan places than I have seen in a long time. I suppose here, in the country, those places are labelled with the kin calls – uncle, cousin, grandmother.
I drove out, west, moving from the hand-painted $29.95 above a garage to the bricked-over Pizza Hut and the landscaped sign that announces the new suburb-city.
I stopped at lights and navigated the most complex system of roads in a shopping center I have ever seen, all for waffle fries.
Then, I drove out, on to open fields and past a gas station shaped like a red barn but painted white.
I felt the tension – the tightness of my breath that comes – only now – in cities – I felt it slough out as the miles rolled under my tires and the trees took the place of buildings.
Once, the city was all I wanted – the Outer Richmond of San Francisco – apartment buildings, garages with living rooms above, the corner produce market where I could buy a flat of strawberries for just $7. I stood at bus stops and read in crowds. I walked blocks and didn’t hear the horns or the “Now arriving at Market Street” bus voice. I reveled in the fragrance of Burma Superstar as I browsed Green Apple’s shelves.
Once, the city was my refuge.
Today, I am too soft for the edge of the city – even this eastern Richmond, a place long part of my idea of home. I cannot tune out enough now, focus. I don’t feel safe the same way I used to.
As I crested the mountains west of Appomattox, I breathed in and felt the scent settle into my skin – those trees, that air just this distance from the ocean, just this elevation. Just this place. Mine. So much mine.
Now, country – trees and wide swaths of grass and the tiny store with the hand-painted sign that says bait – this is home, refuge, life. My hardness covers the pads of my hands and steels up my belly when I must drive to get fresh, local honey. It’s not a better living way – just a different set of strengths.
200 miles on the road yesterday. I do not wonder why roads are such metaphors. I think I may get Kerouac just a bit more now.
Where is home for you? City, country, suburbs? What do you most appreciate about that place?