San Jose doesn’t feel like home, but it is finally starting to feel home-like.
The cashier at AM/PM starts cracking up when she sees me in line, empty handed, knowing that I will simply grab an almond Snickers and then be on my way. The woman at the café knows I take my coffee sin azucar. The waiter at Machu Picchu (the restaurant, not the Peruvian Incan ruins) hands me the Spanish menu, knowing my language ability is struggling, but that I know enough, at least when it comes to food. I know every dog that lounges outside the houses in our neighborhood. One, a white spotted bull terrier, I’ve taken to calling “little girl,” the same endearment I call my Lexi, because their personalities seem so similar. (Her owners once caught me greeting her, “Hola, guapa!” and rewarded me with a big smile.)
San Jose is starting to grow on me, even with the incessant background city sounds, just as I’m about to leave it.
And that’s okay. My home has never been simply a location. I’ve never been one to let fondness for what I currently have keep me from the next place, the next adventure. I have spent a minimum of two months in four countries, two US states, seven towns/cities, and moved my entire pile of belongings fourteen times in nine years. Having lived in the same house from age one to age seventeen, I guess I’m balancing it all out.
Home has always been people. I have three location homes because of the groups of people that remain there. My hometown, my college town, and Nashville. But I have homes scattered over the world. Where my people go, my friends and family, there my home goes. And thanks to the internet, my homes are also always with me.
I don’t let people into my life easily, because I tend to keep them around forever. That’s not to say I don’t let them in quickly. Amy and I had a whirlwind friend-romance; I kidnapped her for three days and we bounced around cemeteries and coffee shops. Jess convinced me to follow to Costa Rica after less than six months acquaintance. But Laura and I didn’t speak for months of being in the same church group, until one day I brought in a copy of Mossflower, and we had a C.S. Lewis moment of, “You too? I thought I was the only one!” Mia and I were tossed into weekly sleepovers and biology labs by our parents, awkward at first, then awake late into the night as we talked Jane Austin, Lousia May Alcott, art, and an endless list of combined interests.
Yet other friends merged in so quietly, so seamlessly, that I couldn’t tell you where acquaintance stopped and friendship began. And there’s Mark, who was determined to be my friend and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Jonathan worries I haven’t yet developed the communities I had in New York, in college, and in Nashville. But I’m okay with it. My homes are not shoddy straw shacks, quickly tied together but blown apart in the first breath of the storm. They’re stone fortresses of support, built one hand placed rock at a time.
In a short while, Puerto Viejo will become home-like. I’ll have my favorite restaurants, different people I greet on my walks, different routines and patterns. But even as I move, I’m building up the relationships that I’ve started here, the ones I’ll start in each new place, creating a wider, deeper home that has nothing to do with where my feet are standing.