Take me home

Gravity pulls you down in this city. Every inch of you, every lasting breath, every forward step is like a journey in time. Backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards. Your body adjusts its pace to the beat of the person whose shoes touch yours for a split second. Your feet adjust to a rhythm your body creates as you step on the train and wonder if you are going in the right direction.
Home. Is it where you belong or where you are told you belong, or a place in your dreams?
Imagine yourself on the run. Imagine that you grew up in Tehran, in a city unforgiving of your libertine desires, where women are pretty dolls who speak with their eyes and hide smiles on their pretty pink lips. A city that speaks fast and honks in loud outbursts. A city that forbids your Western thoughts, your public displays of affection, your dreams of writing, your ideas of sex. Tehran, the home of a child, the story of childhood that ends abruptly, so much that when you are 21 and thinking back, it is no longer really home. After you’ve left, and moved on, and built on your idea of home, of yourself and of your work of art, the Tehran you knew is just a thought in your veins.
You don’t know where you belong. Last spring, you walked the streets of Madrid, surrounded by Spaniards, by boys with Mohawks and women in fashionable boots and old ladies in fur coats. You walked until you got tired and sat at a café. You ordered a café con leche and said gracias and because you had dark hair, they thought you were one of them. At night, men called you guapa as you flew past them and Juanes sang in your ears. You ate dinner at senora’s and talked of that Tehran again. You almost wanted to call it home, but you stopped mid-sentence, trying to remember the color of your room. You also remembered that the apartment you’d lived in for 11 years was sold a couple of years ago and when your brother told you on the phone, you cried with your sister in your American living room. After you’ve left, and moved on, and built on your idea of home, of yourself and your work of art, the Madrid you knew is just a thought in your veins.
Today, you are walking Manhattan, looking to belong. Do you belong underneath the lights of the city, in the streets where you encounter walkers and dreamers and drifters who don’t know which street to take? In the subway, you look at faces, the often tired, sleep-deprived eyes of women who are covered in stress and fatigue. You look at the homeless who ask for your kindness, for you to spare a dime and there is maybe one woman who might spare a dime as everyone else pretends he is not there. No one has a home, not even those who stand with their briefcases, or those who read silently. No one has a home; everyone is on the move.
No one has time. Everyone is running to catch the next train because the next train will get you there — to home, to your lover, to your friend, to the meeting that will mark your career, to your mother who still loves you, to your sister with a broken heart, to your daughter with high hopes. The train will get you there. And you have no time to spare for the man without a home, the man who doesn’t run, the man who doesn’t fly.
Here in the city, people fly. You can’t even stop to look at signs. You have learned to watch for them before you get too close so you don’t stop in the middle and have fifty feet run you over or worse fifty eyes curse you out. You feel like you are flying as the wind inside the station propels you forward and you no longer fall behind. You walk fast, faster to reach home.
As you wait for the train, you notice mice in the tracks. There are cigarette buds and pencils and scraps of paper. There are a tiny million pieces of memories and diaries inside the tracks and as the train approaches, as the doors open and close, you move on, forward, onward into the next. And you wonder where home is.
The faces change, their smiles fade and fall, their lips pursed, their eyes afar. They are all thinking of home as you think about where you will go next. You are running all the time in your head to newer places. You call it experience and learning. Your mother calls it insane. You call it dreaming. Your inner self calls it running away. Away from weakness, and doubt, and uncertainty, and the emptiness of being. You still don’t know what home is. Maybe it was once that city of childhood. And today it is a different one everyday and maybe you will always be somewhere foreign, somewhere you blend in without belonging, without being asked, “Where are you really from, where was your home?”
For now, you run after subways. You speak three languages in your head as you think of khoone, home, casa and neither one makes sense. You absorb cultures and there are always things you won’t have the answers to. So you run. You get on the train, get on with it, and move on and keep moving, all the time thinking of something resembling home.

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