Headlights paint the strip of road stretching endlessly before and behind the red chevy. I pull my hand across my heavy eyes. Don’t look at the clock. It’s not been as long as you think. A pained glance at the digital dashboard. 3:42 am.
1,000 miles from home.
500 to get home.
My travelling companions slumber in the back seats, one with tail and paws curled atop a suitcase, the other propped with a pillow against the passenger side door.
With the advent of cruise control, there’s one less thing to occupy my mind while scanning the vestiges of highway all grass and weeds and shadow. So I think of home.
Once, home was where we’re going. With family, old friends, memories both pleasant and unpleasant. We lived in the homes, apartments, on the couches of our loved ones. We suffered and we shone, we hurt and we loved. Isn’t that what makes a home? The place you belonged enough to feel everything, with everyone you knew? Is home where you grow from the roots of others?
Or, is home where you strike out? In search for belonging, do we find home where we plant ourselves among tepid topsoil and brutal independence? I thought that might make my home, where we departed from. A place I could craft myself and truly be who I wanted. Should home not be amongst our things and newfound pride?
But, where we are going is too dark and inhospitable. Where we left, we are too stifled.
A nudge at my elbow from a fluffy, soft head. “Mrrm?” She mews.
My hand gratefully releases the steering wheel to caress the cat. Her round eyes reflect light from the darkness and her whiskers tickle my skin. She slinks into my lap for a moment before disappearing under my legs to rest at the base of my seat.
We’ll only let her walk around for a little while, we’d agreed. It’s not the safest, but I feel bad leaving her cooped up the whole trip. Now she basically has the run of the place.
As far as she knows, this is her home now. The room she stays in at my mother’s house will be home until we make the drive back. She is home wherever she is.
I look in the rearview mirror not to see the emptiness behind, but the shadowed form of blankets and girl sprawled along the backseat. There, we have the essentials we packed and some comforts to keep our spirits up. Is that enough to call this a home, the kind away from any other home? It’s not ideal, but in a pinch can this be home enough?
In the back, my girlfriend stirs in a dream. On the floorboards, my cat purrs. Between their love, their loyalty, and the optimism they instill in me, have I found home in a feeling?
Perhaps home is none of the things I know. Home is the intangible parts of it all; of the experience in roaming and in settling, the confidence and pride it takes to love oneself, to love others and be loved in turn, the core comforts of breathing air and staying warm, and the family you make for yourself.
When I stopped searching for home, home found me.