Oh, I'm terrible at keeping in touch. I remember before I left thinking that I was going to write to friends and family all the time, multiple letters a week, a day even. I remember making that promise, too, to several people. I didn't keep the promise. My parents didn't care, though. The Dudes didn't care. I don't think Laura cared too much either, though she did always say it was nice to see those envelopes, rare as they were, fingerprinted with dirt. Vina and I don't ever really need to talk; we always seem to understand each other.
Andy and I talk about girls still, though at our age I suppose we should start to say 'women.' Same subject with Tim and Justin and Mike and my brother. Sometimes it makes me feel immature. I'm not sure how to get over that, though, so I just keep plugging along.
The first night back I couldn't sleep. I was up all night, wandering around the house, wanting desperately to go into the spare bedroom and sift through all the drawers, find out what I'd left behind that I'd forgotten. I finally fell asleep the next morning around nine, on the couch, a dog nearby. I woke up an hour later, with no idea who or where I was. Dad said I called for him, though; I think it was just instinct. I poured myself a glass of juice, my hand shaking the entire time.
I've been going to bed late lately. Tonight I haven't gone to bed at all. Tim lent me a Batman comic, The Dark Knight Returns, one of those Frank Miller's from the mid-80s. For some reason it made me think of death. I tried to turn out the light and sleep but the sky was the brown of a decaying orange and my cat was staring at me instead of sleeping, the little light of the night catching and turning green in her eyes. I was terrified by it. I could feel a panic attack coming. I've been able to control them for a long time now, haven't had one as potent as I used to when I was a kid. As soon as I feel one coming I block all opportunities for it to take hold. Sometimes this means listening to music, which I can do in the dark, with my eyes closed, until I fall asleep. Sometimes this means staying up all night to find other distractions. Maybe when I'm done here I'll make some pancakes.
I saw Chris the other day, which was nice. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to hang out with people who love literature. I mean, really love the stuff. Not just people who read and enjoy and recommend, but people for whom writing has serious weight, who sigh at the good lines, who laugh in admiration at the better ones. We talked about flash fiction, publishing. We drank beer, ate lunch. We watched Muppet videos.
Two days after my return Andy and Justin and I drove ten hours to Philadelphia to visit Vina. We were there too long, and Vina was busy with classes, but we had a great time. The first night, at a hookah bar, I met a Moroccan waitress, and we talked to each other in French, over the heads of my friends. While Vina was in class, the three of us went to Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers came up with and signed the Constitution of the United States. The tour guide spoke of how Lincoln had stopped in Philadelphia in 1861, on his way to assume the presidency. He quoted Lincoln from memory, something about the importance of the Union, the solemnity of the signing of two of the world's most influential documents, and I began to cry. After the guide liberated us, we went into another building where we saw one of the original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, and another of the Constitution. I squeezed in front of the woman taking no-flash photos, and in the low light of the display, found my favorite lines:
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.... [W]e mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Again, I cried. And then I had one of those moments, one of those beautiful moments when you step outside of yourself and realize how wonderful everything is, when I felt so damn welcomed, so perfectly right to be back in my country. It was a good way to come home, I felt.