I have a place where everything is right.
Where the playground is a memory map of the first monkey bars I ever conquered and the slide that left an egg-shaped protrusion on the center of my forehead and the swings where I spotted the first boy to warm the insides of my chest.
Where the benches behind the old platane tree hold the secrets of my first kiss. And a second. And a third. And a hidden hand-holding behind the backs of our closest friends. Followed by a first break-up. A short-lived romance with an ever-longer mourning period. First loves are funny like that.
Where sickness is cured by a spoon filled with bubblegum-tasting medicine. Where my father’s arms are enough to cure the most serious bout of tears.
Where fields of wheat tickle my calves as I run away from my grandfather’s curfew. Where mountains are not what they appear. Not cold blocks of stone but warm evenings carried uphill upon the back of a grumpy best friend who wonders aloud the entire ride why girls would ever wear heels. Where the mountaintop is a rendezvous for kids so desperate to age. Where our first cups of wine are lit by the dim candles of the church dome beside us, the very same where our grandparents once wed, and accompanied by the music of the ancient trees above us, swaying, whispering, begging us to stop a moment. To let time be. To be fourteen. To see what time really means. To understand that we will never be so free again.
Where the constellations above walk us home, our purpling lips trembling from both drink and temperature. Where spinach-pie-4am-bakery-runs sober us after our failed attempts at holding our grape. Where my brother and I snort down giggling whilst climbing the balconies back into our home, feeling sneaky and so clever, only to be asked the next morning why we returned at the turning of the sun.
Where the thinking spot on the stone well’s wall is the first thing I ever inherited from my mother. Hers to give from her mother, of course.
A place where my grandmother is still alive. Where she asks me to sit beside her on the couch. Where she tells me she will teach me to knit. And this time I listen.
I keep trying to return to this place. I keep hoping, selfishly, that when I arrive, it will not have changed. That the people in it will be the same. That the place I love so deeply will have stayed entirely as it were upon my exit. That my return will breathe life back into its veins. That it will be exactly as I remember. That my plane does not transcend just miles, but time.
To a place where my grandfather calls out tomboy as I juggle my soccer ball in the barn. Only now, I understand what he’s really saying. It’s not about me at all. He’s just trying to go back to his place, the one where everything is right.
Because once upon a time, my place — well, it was his place.
I keep trying to return to my place. But it’s not there. Because it’s not a place I’m seeking. I’m looking for something that isn’t anymore. I’m homesick for the past. And the more I try to hold on to the long arms of my grandfather’s pocket watch, the one he left behind, the more distant my place becomes. In love with a time, the most fickle of suitors.
My first love, followed by an ever-longer mourning period. First loves are funny like that.