London. San Francisco. Paris, of course.
Even if I never leave my little burg (of several million), I’m inclined to play the part of an armchair voyager, bound for locales that I’d like to visit, and others where I’ve lived and I dream of returning.
And this morning, I am suffering from the itch.
The itch for the exhilaration of boarding a plane, closing my eyes, and waking to another culture, another tongue, another everything.
It’s the itch to shed one skin and layer on another. It’s the itch to drop everything and go.
To be able to drop everything and go.
* * *
“You’re resistant to change,” he says amiably.
We’ve been spending a great deal of time together, though he doesn’t realize the extent of the changes already. The way my life has shifted in a matter of weeks.
He is pointing to the arrangement of pots and pans in my glistening kitchen – all areas tidied thanks to his elbow grease. Yesterday he attacked the shelves in my crowded pantry.
I can’t find my spices, and I can’t reach my tea bags.
He’s taller than I am, of course. What isn’t even a stretch for him is utterly beyond my grasp. I try to explain with mock irritation as I demonstrate the need for a step stool, where he has none.
“I’ll deal,” I say. “But I’m going to move some things back.”
He smiles and goes on with loading the dishes into the washer. I glance again at the orderly alignment of cans and containers. And I wonder if he’s right. That I am resistant to change.
* * *
I haven’t been able to travel in years.
Not the way I used to.
Not the way I’d like to.
I once lived a life of seeing the world – not so much a plan, but a circumstance which evolved into a career, a lifestyle, a necessary wandering that resembled deep breathing: inhale and jump; exhale and adapt.
* * *
I am living abroad, I am traveling abroad, I am speaking in another language, I am dreaming in another language. I am savoring my life which is far from perfect, but I am savoring, nonetheless.
My friends are marrying and bearing children. I am studying, I am working, I am off-rhythm, or perhaps on a rhythm of my own.
I light in one spot long enough to feel it – and occasionally, long enough for love.
This life doesn’t require much money, but it requires independence which is also more circumstance than intention, and independence yields to other priorities with children, of course. I still travel to Europe, but it’s to visit family – the family of my sons, and the family that becomes mine.
Until they are taken away, by divorce.
And then, there is no family and there are no trips.
Resistant to change?
No. I’ve been steeped in it for two decades.
* * *
“It’s not just about the money,” I say, as he proposes locations. “It’s a matter of time.”
Everything seems to be a matter of time or its insufficiency – writing, working projects, raising children, the luxury of a relationship. And relationship is indeed a luxury, depending on circumstance. But now, as I look at his face, I remind myself of upcoming freedoms. I remind myself with trepidation, that there’s living, and there’s writing about living.
I need one to do the other.
I need both.
I want both.
But I also have to make my way. To earn a living. To pull my weight.
* * *
It’s a particular sort of itch. One that drives you mad if you can’t scratch: the urgency of touch, the desire for sexual contact, the need for intimacy.
We are adults, we are getting to know one another, we’re pacing ourselves.
He’s learning me. I’m learning him.
* * *
“You have friends in Paris, right?”
“Yes,” I say.
“I have friends in Brittany, and relatives near Strasbourg. I’d like to show you Spain. I think you’d love it.”
He puts his arm around me, and I tell myself that anything is possible.
* * *
This morning, I wake early. It is still pitch black. And I feel it.
The need to move. The need to run. The need for something I can’t quite put my finger on.
The need to say the words.
Morning drags and wading through the accumulated stack of mail isn’t helping. Writing is slow and sluggish. My task list expands exponentially. But I power through another bill, another check, another envelope, another stamp, and I spoon out more French Roast for another pot of courage.
The itch. The damn itch.
To get on a plane, and go.
To become the chameleon self, the self-sufficient self, the relaxed self I can never unearth surrounded by piles and lists, by the mother’s worries, by the yokes we welcome, and the yokes we resist.
No. I do not think I resist change.
* * *
I ask myself if I conjured him from theories and adjectives, from the heat of midsummer and the surprisingly silky texture of a man’s skin.
This man who kisses my face. This man who tends to my pantry.
He asks what I think of Mexico in the fall or Paris in the spring. Paris at the holidays. Paris – anytime.
I look him squarely in the eye and admit: “Perhaps I am resistant to change. But I adjust whatever it takes, so what is essential remains within reach.”
He teases me with a boyish grin and I feel it again.
There is always the itch.