(Today’s entry; in which I contemplate the end of summer and just where I will be going now that I have nowhere else booked to belong. Which takes me places I hadn’t expected to go … and I go there … of course.)
Labor Day weekend – the official unofficial end of summer – has passed.
Even though the students here in Frederick County, Maryland, returned scandalously early to school in August, and I’ve another five days left until my twelve consecutive weeks of nomad-wandering, living out of a bag, summer house/pet sitting come to an end; Labor Day is STILL the official mark of “Oh no, here we go again.”
It’s funny, that. By which I mean, where I am going with this – which is not at all where I meant to go. But, the preceding paragraph and its shape was affected by someone I know but have neither seen nor talked to in – I think – thirty years. On first construction, in the sentence about nomad wandering, I used the word “gypsy” – but, once upon a time when I was young, a friend and I decided in the space of a few, short, specifically the stuff of early twenties, tortured days of suffering dramatically the aching, eleven-o-clock musical ballad tragedy of being in unrequited love – not with one another – to pack our essential belongings into a rental truck and take off for New Haven; no plan, no place to live, nothing but the certainty that Frederick, Maryland could never appreciate us: Our Wit. Our Erudition. Our affections for those of sexualities not inclined to return our affections.
She was a lovely woman and a dear friend and our “crazy” worked well together in that moment. She was of Romanian heritage and using the word “gypsy” around her – other than to refer to the classic musical or a Broadway musical dancer – was to risk her fury. Too often its use was derogatory, meaning someone shiftless and itinerant, sneaky, criminal, and – well – she really, really, REALLY did not like anyone to use the word and in doing so conjure its cultural prejudices and superstitions. At the same time, and sort of hilariously, she absolutely believed that her Mother was clairvoyant and could – and would and did – at any time employ what was called “the evil eye” – which, once cast upon you, could ruin your life in many different colors.
I stopped using the word. Ever since, I have been sensitive to its use, knowing that to some people it is as delicate as the use of “queer” can be for me. So, although I have not seen nor spoken to this woman in decades, she still influences my life. She influences my writing. She is for me – as I assume I am for her – a story told. And while we both (I guess?) still exist in “real time” – for one another, we are shapes and sizes and details that are decades old. I don’t know that we would even recognize one another now, and I cannot imagine what she would think of me recalling about her the “gypsy” story and, I can imagine even less what story it is about me she would tell. How am I defined in her memory?
Our “real time” story ended, as has the summer of 2013. I survived its storms, its strange wanderings and wonderings, and begin – only now – to contemplate the symbolism and metaphor of having spent a season during which I was always in someone else’s home, in someone else’s bed, never in a place I could call my own. In fact, this itinerancy has brought bubbling up the realization that “a place I could call my own” is not something I have had in a very, very long time.
It seems I have never stopped loading vans full of my essentials – of which there became more and more until, recently, there have been less and less – I am down to two bags.
And so this wandering is, perhaps, is as it should be? When you look up “gypsy” in the thesaurus it begins by giving you the definition of “wanderer” and then a first synonym of “bohemian” which is defined as “nonconformist” and then gives the synonym of “artist” and “writer”. Other stops along its etymological trail include nomad and iconoclast and roving and vagabond and shifting and journeyer and departer; but, perhaps that one which strikes me most and feels completely right to me today: Unsettled.
The summer season has ended. I am about to go “home” – which is full of loving people, people I adore, but it is not a place I can really call “my own”. And while I do have a new plot – at last I think – for my second “literary” novel (as opposed to the “fun fast read” novels – much harder to write by the way – on which I have been working) which gives me a foundation – a place where I am – I don’t feel as if – emotionally, spiritually – I have ever really, finally unpacked that rented van and settled into a place that is – completely, fully, finally – my home.