Your parents have moved down the coast to a place where it’s always summer, even in the winter. Three days before Christmas and you’re eating seafood at a sidewalk café, the ocean breeze combing through your hair like fingers attached to hands attached to someone who wants you. It’s 81 degrees and this is their home now.
You like the house. It sits on an Edward Scissorhands block with manicured bushes and pastelled neighbors, 70-somethings trapped in ‘70-something. The bathroom is dressed in coral and always smells like sunscreen. You used to stay in houses like this, houses with seashells sitting on windowsills, houses with beach towels in every closet. You stayed there for a week, maybe two, and then you’d return to the pavement, and the subways, and the river. You’ll return to all of that again, but your parents will stay behind this time. This is their home now.
And how can that be? Because you’ve never left smudged fingerprints on the walls, and you’ve never hidden a report card in your pillowcase, and you’ve never sat in the driveway waiting for some boy to pick you up, some boy whose name you’ll forget in five years. You’ve never slammed any of these freshly-painted doors, never screamed or cried or muttered I hate you I hate you I hate you under your breath knowing no one will hear you while secretly hoping someone does.
You’ve never thrown a baseball through the window and you’ve never stolen pulls from a cigarette in your bedroom, you don’t even have a bedroom here. You’ve never woken up in the middle of the night for a snack and turned on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries to watch while you were eating it, and you’ve never become so afraid during that hour that you sat upright in the eat-in kitchen until the sun rose, you’ve never done that here. You’ve never snuck out and you’ve never snuck in because you can come and go as you please, you’re a guest now. This isn’t your home, but it is theirs.
At five in the afternoon you walk in perfectly straight lines, up and down and in and out of the grid their house sits on and you’ll smile and you’ll wave whenever someone drives by because these people are your neighbors now, somehow, by extension. A guy wearing a pale blue t-shirt with jagged edges where the sleeves should be grins at you from the window of his white truck and you won’t feel excited to see someone your own age as much as you’ll mourn all of the times you flew down here to visit your grandparents; you played mini-golf and fell in puppy love with some kid playing a hole ahead of you [every single time; always a different boy] and he was wearing a baseball cap and sun-cloaked skin and you wanted to kiss him before you knew what it could mean, what it could do. You could fall in love anywhere, with anyone, when you were little. As the guy in the pale blue t-shirt sails by and makes a left onto your parents’ new block, you don’t wish you could kiss him; instead you wish you didn’t know exactly what you like, you wish you were indiscriminate so that you could like anything.
The sun goes down and leaves bales of cotton candy in its wake, pink and blue streaking across the sky like a welcome banner for newborns. It’s a boy and it’s a girl, you think, clouds are mostly white where I live, you think, where is my home now? You wonder.