I am probably the only human in New York City sitting in a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf drinking a Mocha Ice-Blended in 20 degree weather. The barista looked at me like I was crazy when I ordered it.
“Are you sure? I’m freezing just thinking about making it.”
I nod. She hands me a medium-sized cup of cocoa powder, milk, espresso, and beaten up ice cubes. I clutch it in my mittened hand and suck it down fast.
Immediately, I am transported to sophomore year in college, my feet on the warm dashboard of my hand-me-down Ford Explorer named after my grandfather, Walter. His fishing license is still shoved in the glove box, mashed between his old Willy Nelson CDs and the ice scraper we used to defrost the windshield every Christmas together.
Lucas is driving. We’re headed down to Austin on I-35. We don’t hit traffic until Cesar Chavez Blvd.
“FUCK.” He smacks the steering wheel. I groan. He leans over and kisses me. Our nose rings get stuck.
“Fuck,” I giggle, looping his hoop over my stud and freeing myself. “Ocean Breathes Salty” is playing on my crappy speakers. We exit the freeway and hang a right, passing SoCo and P-Terry Burgers and Peter Pan Mini-Golf until we land a 20 minute parking spot outside of the Coffee Bean on South Lamar.
“These are bigger than Starbucks in LA,” I tell him. He rolls his eyes. He’s a barista at Common Grounds in Waco, the most obscure of all the obscure, hipster coffee shops in the galaxy, probably. He doesn’t care about Starbucks, but admits that my Ice Blended is as addicting as crack cocaine. He takes five or six sips before ordering one for himself, a large, piled high with whipped cream. We take them to go and find a table at our favorite vegetarian joint down the road.
I tell him about the summers I spent stuck in traffic on the 405 on the way to my internship at a film company in Santa Monica. I always had a purple straw clamped between my lips and some kind of a carb wrapped in a napkin in my cup holder for the drive. I pull up pictures of the Getty Villa, the Roxy on Sunset, the mountains behind my house, the hummingbirds in my backyard.
“This is where I live,” I tell him. “This is where I came from.”
I’m homesick, homesick for California and for Texas and for all the places I have lived. How do you split your soul evenly among so many cities? How do you translate yourself across state lines and international borders? How do you heal your heart when you’re in love with so many people and places and things?
I’m sitting at this stupid table in this chain coffee shop and I wish that I could time travel back to the exact moment in time when I decided that I was going to move away from my family and friends and the ocean and my dogs, but I can’t. Not because time travel doesn’t exist, but because there is no exact moment. I have the exact opposite of manifest destiny flowing through my blood. I wanted to get as far away as fast as I could from everything I love, and I can’t tell you why. There was something pushing and pulling at me; a voice that came to me in my sleep and hands that gently locked themselves around my wrists and dragged me through the southwest and up to New York.
I’ve loved every adventure, every shitty apartment, every new friend that I’ve made. But I can’t say that I haven’t looked back. I missed my best friend picking out her wedding dress. She texted me a picture with the caption, “THIS IS THE ONE,” that flashed across the screen of my cell phone when I exited the subway. I wanted to cry. Not only because she looked beautiful, but also because I wasn’t there to tell her that in person.
I missed my soul mate, the girl I’ve known since I was six years old, starting her own business. “Just move back home so I can steal all of your cupcake recipes and we can watch Star Wars while we bake all day,” she pleaded over the phone. “I have a bedroom opening up in my beach house with your name on it. Just get on a plane, please, we miss you.”
I missed both of my grandparents’ deaths. I hadn’t seen either of them for months when they passed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered out the window of the airplane that transported me back home, a little too late. “I didn’t mean to leave you when you needed me.”
I call my parents everyday, but that doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve missed Christmases and birthdays and weddings and funerals and Thanksgivings and graduations. I’ve been in long distance relationships that ended the minute my significant others realized that there would be no end date. When my aunt had a double mastectomy, I wasn’t there to hold her hand. My two dogs probably think I’ve abandoned them.
I think I make myself homesick on purpose. I think that I crave new experiences and adventures so severely that I put those things before anything else in my life. And I don’t know how to stop. I feel like I’m travelling downhill with no brakes and there’s nothing to grab on to. I’m just going to keep drifting farther and farther away, taking jobs and making friends in random and exotic places until I can’t remember what the Santa Ana winds feel like, or how hot it gets in the summer in Central Texas, or the exact date in October when you have to start wearing scarves in Manhattan.
I just really, really hope that wherever I end up, there will be chocolate-y, frozen coffee drinks to remind me of where I’ve been.