Toward the end of my summer vacation, over late-night frozen yogurt, I had a conversation with a friend about how it feels to always be leaving and returning home, for and from school. We were sitting at a table overlooking a marina and watching the water reflect the starlight. Boats bobbed on the current, the water lapping their sides. Two years removed from high school, I feel more than ever a sense of distance from the things that I associate with home—the people and places I knew, and the memories. If home is a place constituted by memories, then home must be ever elusive, a place that necessarily exists in the past, and therefore unreachable. I told my friend, “When I came home this summer, I felt less like I was returning to something real and more like I was returning to a memory.” My friend sympathized. He said, “Even though I live here, the times I feel closest to home are the times when I’m away and remembering it.”
The next day, I drove to my childhood school, which is nestled in a valley between mountains that are a thousand shades of green. When I got there, it was raining, so I parked underneath some trees. I leaned against the window and watched the rain drip from the branches onto the windshield of the car. The rain slid down the window, etching rivulets into the glass and running shadows onto the dashboard. I watched a man drive a lawn mower over the grass, and the grass bent and cracked beneath the blades. Then a bell rang and doors opened and children ran onto the blacktop basketball court with balls and jump ropes and Chinese jacks. And for a moment, I realized that, though I wasn’t, my memories had led me back to a place that I had known in a previous time.