Crossing Florida, pausing at Lake Okeechobee and then heading onwards into the outskirts of West Palm, outside in the cool twilight air sitting on a curb in the Starbucks parking lot after closing time. I cook couscous and tuna on my camp stove, the same meal that broke my New Years fast, and then I wash my dishes in the wandering sprinklers and park next to a canal and horse pasture to spend my Last Night On The Road. When the rising sun pulls me back into consciousness, I return to Miami.
I haven’t posted a blog since arriving here. The writing has continued, yet my focus has been much more internal. My wrestling with wanderlust and home, my purpose, the conversations I’ve been having with people; I head to the second floor of the library when I don’t want to be disturbed: surrounded by maps, standing hunched over a table, dreadlocks falling across the pages. The spring rains come, and moments splatter against time like raindrops on the library windowpanes. Friday night jam sessions and roasting marshmallows at evening bonfires, sitting outside the library watching the people go by, Frisbee and acrobatics on the green, cafes with an open notebook, my fingers are getting stronger from all this guitar playing. On the rooftop of Ungar with Gio, pressing my eye to a telescope pointed at Saturn when the clouds part. In the car with Amanda and Liz, the red and white highway lights blurring on our way back from climbing. Standing beside the ocean. Meeting Reem for coffee between her classes. Reconnecting with old professors. Getting lost in the stacks and opening old books just to smell them. One day I drive to the airport and sit downstairs just to watch families reunite with homeward bound travelers. I sit with Amanda on her roof and burn the moments into my memory. Bodies writhing and undulating on the dance floor. Latin blending into hip hop, one mass of humanity moving together to the beat, the bass drops and the floor is almost shaking, ice swirling in glasses, toasts made and high heels come off to climb onto the tables, the walls of screens filled with basketball that ignites cheers and yelling every time the ball swishes through a hoop, as someone pulls me deeper into the dance floor I see one lone TV in a corner filled with the shaky image of a home video, someone rushing through the rubble, the ticker freezes with the words MASSIVE EARTHQUAKE DEVASTATES JAPAN, we keep dancing as the death toll rises, dancing as they are praying eight thousand miles away, our floor keeps shaking with the bass, I wonder if anyone else in here notices this TV in the corner, the newscasters barely furrow their brows as the tell us the tsunami has hit.
When I am not surrounded by people, I am writing. Sometimes I flip through my old notebooks and Remember. Mostly, I write letters to literary agencies and print off hundred-page proposals for publishers. The dream is to see my words in print, to hold them in my hands and feel their texture, to transform my most powerful moments of world travel into a tangible shard of expression. After six months of pursuing this dream without many results, I begin to wonder whether my decision to circumvent the traditional route of painstakingly clawing my way into the writing world was a mistake. What is my relationship to the craft of writing, anyway? For how long will this be my medium of expression? Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to lay down the pen for a while. What would I do instead? Pick up the paintbrush, make more music, experiment with internalizing things instead of expressing them?
And what when I leave Miami? Writing kept me grounded in the cabin; blogging and striving to publish has kept me grounded (somewhat) as I’ve traveled these last months, but now I’ve exhausted all outlets. All I can do now is wait for a publisher to get back to me. Yet if nothing comes of this (which is beginning to seem more and more likely), what purpose will I ground myself in next? Hanging out with friends on the green or at coffee shops feels natural, but when everyone parts ways I am reminded of my homelessness. I have places to sleep but no space of my own to return to. I’ve been warmly accepted back into this community that I chose to leave, yet this place is not mine anymore. I don’t know where I’m going next. Yet surrounded by friends and love, I find it impossible to explain my restlessness when they ask me, why don’t you just stay? I need to leave. I need to move. Not to go anywhere, but to go. Notebook #6 is filling up.
Late one night I head to campus to sit on the steps of my old apartment. I return there every time I return to Miami. There’s something about going back to an old place after being filled with new experience; the remembrance provides some kind of closure or important perspective. Maybe it’s just empowering to sit in a place that used to mean so much to me and to reflect on how far I’ve come since the last time I visited this place. On campus, I discover that the building is gone, demolished and surrounded by a green construction fence.