If you can't see the progress you've made, you're either not looking, or you're not moving.
I sat on the bed, in my grandmother's apartment. Looking around at the furniture, and the blue walls. This was my aunt's room, it’s still her stuff, but she doesn't live here anymore. Before that it was my sister's room, when we had lived in this apartment; and farther back still, it was my room, shared between me, my brother and sister. We had bunk-beds back then; I had the bottom, my brother was on top, and my sister had her own bed along the opposite wall, right where I was sitting, outside of the flashback. Some of my earliest memories were in this room; Saturday morning cartoons, games of Mario Party, and, of course, annoying my siblings.
A few years later, my parents had given up their room to us, so me and my brother moved across the hall, and my sister got this room all to herself. In a small two bedroom apartment, in downtown Brooklyn, they had chosen to sleep on a futon in the living room, so their kids could have more space to grow.
There's no bunk-bed here anymore. And only my grandma's bed, and her two dogs, in the room across the hall. There's no futon in the living room; and there's no closet in the narrow hallway, with mirrored accordion doors, that never fully closed. The walls aren't even the same, and now there's a shower in the bathroom; it used to be a tub. It's November 10th 2017, it's been a month and 12 years since my family moved away from Dean street. In another year, my grandma will have lived here longer than I ever did.
Navi is next to me on the bed, the dog that I adopted on the road, two months prior, on my 25th birthday. That was day 146; today makes 207. I didn't keep track of it as I went, but coming to an end, I went back and counted. It wasn't 207 consecutive days; there were things I had to come back home for; things I wish didn't happen, but they had anyway; wishes be damned. 207 is just the total; starting with the first day I woke up in my bed, and slept somewhere else; now ending with the day I woke up, somewhere in a tent, and in a few hours I'll be asleep, back in my bed.
It rattles in my head. The last 12 of those days had been me just trying to hitchhike back from Texas. Walking along the road is one thing; waiting along it, for a ride you can't expect is something else entirely; and it had taken its toll. I must've had at least three mental breakdowns in those two weeks. Also I broke my phone (that was one of those breaks.)
But we'd made it, like a miracle in the bottom of the ninth, caught a ride outside of Baltimore, all the way to Brooklyn. Now I’m back, after the adventure of a lifetime, 2300 miles on foot, over seven months on the road; and I’m back in my childhood bedroom, right where I started. Hard not to get introspective about it.
I pull Navi over; this is the perfect time for a selfie, isn’t it? I hold up the camera, but I don’t smile. I don’t feel like smiling. This is purely documentary.
I accomplished something, but it wasn’t the whole of what I set out to do. I’m not done. Not yet. The itch hasn’t been fully scratched. It’s still there, calling me back to empty roads, through small towns, and mountain trails.
I’ll get back out soon.
But do I believe it? The word “soon,” always sounds like a lie.
I have less than I started with, maybe not enough; but I’m more than I was.
I hear the apartment door open, cutting off my line of thought. My mom has arrived. She doesn’t know I’m here. She tried to beat me home; I’d made a phone call earlier, so she knew I was getting back today. But I came to grandma’s instead; it was a shorter walk from where I was dropped off, and for now at least, I was done walking.
I heard her walk past the bedroom door. I came up with the idea to surprise her, and my grandma came up with a trivial reason for her to come over. She’d agreed reluctantly, after some back and forth. I could hear them talking in the living room now, saying that I was on my way home, and would be there any minute.
I stash away my fears; do I remember how to live here? I put on a brave face; no need to worry them, again so soon, not when their worries, over me, are finally passed; at least for a little while.
I opened the door, and Navi burst into the hallway. She walked up behind my mom, like she had done to me 61 days ago. My mom turned around, expecting to see my grandmother’s two dogs, even though they were still barking in the other bedroom. I watched the recognition form on her face. She’d never met Navi, but she already knew her.
I stepped forward, laughing.