Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Home Is You

I arrived mid-morning in chaotic Johannesburg International. Immediately the air changed from false oxygenated to dry and sweet. I was gulping for air in Customs and just needed some South African sun to feel whole.

Nothing worked--- all the ATMs rejected my card, the same card I've used for years internationally. "Transaction Cancelled by Network." "Incompatible Banking System." Oh God... I didn't want anyone to pick me up because I was too tired to talk, too tired to grab a quick freezachino, too tired to talk about Candace suing Hillel, too tired to talk about Italy. I love when my father picks me up from the airport- we can just take a Starbucks to go, listen to music, and talk when we are in the mood. There aren't awkward silences or feelings of guilt for not being more chatty or forthcoming. He understands that I'm tired and hate interacting in public when I'm unshowered and uncoiffed. He only makes a brief, passing comment about how much I can pack for three weeks (last count- 40 cosmetic items for 10 days).

But I need cash to pay the taxi driver. The person I can count on most is away until Sunday. I can call other friends, but that requires niceties, explanations, invitations, coffee sharing. I'm already dripping with sweat, but removing my sweater and scarf adds one more mis-shaped layer to carry. Finally, an ATM works. I have cash.

Men are coming at me left and right asking if I need help or need a minibus. They are all so irritating, but it's still heartbreaking that they will carry everything for me for less than a dollar. I'm annoyed at myself that I find them enraging since they too are covered in sweat and are tired-- tired in a way I'll never be, God willing. Tired of houses that leak, toilets that don't work, electricity that cuts out, taxi rides that are brakeless and excruciating.

The air is so beautiful, the sun is so beautiful, the mountains are so beautiful. I want to bathe in all the beauty.

I speak to my Mom later in the day, when she wakes up. She tells me "Welcome Home. Or to South Africa." Good question.

So many people I love and respect have abandoned the notion of home as tied up in place and land and childhood house. It's only parents and best friends and first loves and long-distance crushes. I'm not sure where I stand... my primary home, my fundamental home, is lying on the couch, any couch, with my Mom, watching Law and Order and fighting over the good seat. Abba sits on the floor, and tells us he likes sitting on the floor, but maybe he just likes being nice to us. Home is watching Tee IM, talk on a landline, and talk on a cellphone all at the same time.

Sometimes home is feeling South African warm grass beneath bare feet and reading on the lounge on the roof terrace, or listening to my heels click as I walk down subway or Metro or tube stairs, or sitting in Saba and Savta's apartment looking through their books, or falling asleep in my clothes on Mir's couch.


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