Stepping out of the cold airport (and airplane) into the hot, humid Houston air, I have never been so grateful for the feeling in my life. It is, as usual, like falling face-first into a rather disgustingly warm pool, but after surviving a Russian winter I am totally fine with it. I expected things to be a bit more climactic, to be honest, but my dramatic return to the closest thing I’ve ever had to a hometown, it seems, also fell on its face.
Houston, my city, not my picture.
Later, I stay up pacing the boundaries of my room for hours, even though I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the entire year living with only enough personal belongings that can fill up my backpack, and the clutter that pervades my house stresses me out like nothing else. I stare at the belongings I left behind last August and feel the compulsive need to straighten them all out, but instead I wring my hands and pace some more.
I bought some Reese’s Pieces at the Denver airport. The man said, “Hey, how are you?” I stood for an instant, frozen. He was asking me why I was. Why was he doing that? He didn’t know me, didn’t or at least shouldn’t care about my life. I didn’t understand. After a moment I gathered my composure and managed to say, “Fine, you?” It was only later that I remembered that’s how things work here, in America. That’s our normal — the friendly small talk that didn’t exist in Russia. I had thought I was prepared for this, inwardly scoffed at the ideas of ‘forgetting English’ or not knowing how to deal with people, having lived abroad before and come back to effortlessly settle back into a life that hadn’t changed at all. For the first time, a man’s simple greeting from behind a cashier changed that.
Claremont, where my school is. Photo not mine.
I suppose that means I am back.
Well, here I am. Nine months in this country, reduced down to one last day. I spent most of my last 24 hours in Russia pacing the length of my room without even a single thought in my mind, as if there’s so many thoughts in there that all of them grew shy and decided not to come out. I stood there and paced like the panther I am and watched the clock speed up helplessly before the moment came and I moved to descend with my backpack and handbag, all I have to take home, and hop on a bus to a plane to another plane to another plane to another plane to California.
A view down the street I lived on this semester.
Giving words to sum up nine months of life seems unjust.