Halfway between the security line and the airplane gate, you start unwinding your brain, switching operating systems between your everyday life and booting up an older version that you rarely access now but has proven to be as reliable as ever. You smile as you remember the quirks, the small memories, the smells that one by one hit your nostrils as your original BIOS loads.
You’ve done this before, of course, many a time switching back and forth between lives, always leaving something behind as you embrace the new old. A balance would be ideal, but like a straight line or an arrow, your starting point rarely matches your target. So which life is the real one? Who are you? Where is home? Are you the person you left behind, or the person you’re going back to? And if both those Yous should ever meet, will the two different sides of that equation equal who you are now? Or has one side won out?
Questions like those are why people go insane, so you revel in the duality of your life and let the airport be your reverse limbo during your layover, a place where everybody passes but never stays. You get a drink at the limbo bar, and for about an hour or so share the same air with people you’ll likely never ever see again, thinking about nothing save from where they were and where they’re going. Sip by sip, you pack up the life you were leading only 24 hours before, sending it piece by piece into storage to be retrieved upon your return.
You board your second plane, surrounded by people who happen to be in the same path you are, maybe for the first time; maybe, just like you, not their first time in this rodeo. Regardless, they look like you. The crew is based in your town, and their going back and forth has covered them with a thin layer of familiarity. You get your hometown newspaper handed to you before the airplane takes off. You feel your twang, your accent, your language coming back effortlessly. The last few parcels of that other life are sealed and FedEx-ed and as you land, you surprise yourself by sighing loudly and saying “Home, sweet home.” Where the hell did that come from?
Your passport is stamped and in your hand, the contents of your luggage being the only physical link to your other life. In the cab, you look around at the familiar sights and you allow yourself to believe once more that this place still exists regardless of you not being there, the certainty that it does not just dissolve once you depart from it.
And suddenly, you’re back. You have tried to make your room here match your current life after many trips, but the details betray you — the pictures, the colors, the books, the posters on the wall, all from another version of you. And yet you embrace everything, for the you that was you when you existed here has come back, creeping slowly throughout your trip and now displaying itself in full force. It has come home, and so have you, because, ultimately, no matter where you live or how much you travel or what you do for a living, home is where you are.