42°16'53" N 83°44'54" W + 42°21'31" N 71°03'25" W: Hometown

even in the harshest of winter, I feel so warm / even when the marks climb up the wall, I still feel small

I now live barely a mile away from that old apartment, number 47, where I spent most of a summer in a room with nearly no furniture. It's within walking distance of my front door, on a road called Medford that curves itself back behind trees and has a clear-cut view of the night sky. Medford is the name of a town three miles north of Boston. It's one of those places that's grouped into the word "Boston", a city where friends have lived and in which I looked at apartments. When I got to Boston I had already, somehow, forgotten the name of the road. When I came back to Ann Arbor and happened to drive past it, trying to shake off the chills in my hands from the air, I stopped. "Huh." I recognized the name as belonging somewhere else; the name now means something else - something brand new, a bigger memory of a place on the east coast where I studied bookmaking and past-erasing.

I now live barely a mile away from that apartment's front door with the dim light, the door through which I ran, shrieking, to my car across the street. It was 1 AM. By the time I got my driver's side door open I was soaked, laughter pouring out of me. We hadn't seen a storm that bad since our last year of camp, when we ran across the open field and I tore off my shoes and Mikey picked me up to put me in the car. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe. The next night, we lay on the hill outside the lodge and counted satellites and stars. The grass was still wet from the rain, Aaron's cigarette smoke flowing up and fading into nothing.

I don't know how many times I've written about this memory, younger summers, the door with the light and these rainstorms and the curved road and the satellites. My summer friends - Aaron, the poet, symbol of my younger life; and his brown-eyed cousin, my lifelong friend Mikey - are living new lives now. Aaron's somewhere in Ann Arbor and I can feel our paths crossing unknowingly from time to time, while Mikey is far, in Colorado, taking in the mountains. This is the first time writing about them is different, the first time all the names mean something else and I have half-lake, half-Atlantic blood. This is my first time coming back home.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I've got nowhere else to go

"I will say that it's very difficult to have any kind of intimate relationship, friendship or otherwise, with someone who has this disorder. Or, maybe in this case, someone who exhibits signs. I obviously can't diagnose someone who isn't here." My therapist, who I'd only met once before, handed my phone back and gazed. She waited. The room's air conditioning wasn't working and I kept taking my cardigan off, then replacing it, shifting every five minutes.

"That makes sense," I replied. "That makes a lot of sense. It all lines up." I paused. "You're actually not the first person to say that."

"Do you feel like you should've seen it coming?"

"I mean, probably." I furrowed my brow and shifted my eyes to stare at the far wall, a growing habit.

"Does that bother you?"

I kept staring at the wall. "Actually? No." Finally, I looked back over at her. She had a kind smile, although I could feel the differences between her and Nancy, my therapist in Boston, radiating around the room. "You know what? This is the first time I've thought about this in weeks. Should I feel guilty about that? That I don't think about it anymore?" Again, I shifted my eyes. "It used to consume me, but it's starting to feel like none of it even happened. And I'm a pretty nostalgic person. I feel like it should matter more."

"Nope. That's the goal."

"Like, I feel like it should matter more now that I'm home, right? Shouldn't it?"

She thought a moment. "Are you really home? What is that for you? Is it a location, a house?"

I was quiet.

Later, when I got back in my car and drove back to work with the windows down, I was already thinking about what was for dinner and when I could leave to see Kim's dogs. What did we talk about, again? Home?

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I don't know where else to go

I now live 743 miles away from 84 Sutherland, where Boston meets the rest of Massachusetts, the building near the top of the hill. It's been nearly four years since I moved into that building, significantly less time since I moved out.

I now live hundreds of miles away from the bottom of that street, where I'd run in and out of that corner bar and duck around the rain, however rare it was. I missed the Michigan thunderstorms all the time. I live hundreds of miles away from the trains, the trees in the garden, the movement in DTX, the river, the afternoons on the hardwood floors, the late-night leaving-class laughter, the countless things I've written about many times before and my friends are sick of hearing about - the things I've tried to list and capture. I close my eyes at least once a day and put myself back there, waiting for a cab or walking down Causeway, and I focus on how carefully I rearranged my life.

Recently I dug up my old journals; turns out, unsurprisingly, I recorded a lot of mundane, cute, angsty stuff from my high school and college years. The writing is immature and the things I cared about seem trivial now, but I'm glad it's all preserved online. In November 2006 - ten years ago, when I was 17 - I wrote this, just after coming home from visiting my brother:

Six years later...

In a card Josh gave me earlier this summer, he wrote that his stoop at 6 Sutherland was the most important, significant place in Boston for him because it's where we met. He lived in Boston for over ten years, and this place, he said, was his favorite. We left that place behind five months ago.

I know everything about this place; it wears your face / even when my body blows away, my soul will stay

Lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of places. I suppose this isn't new; locations and their human-appointed importance have always fascinated me. I feel a deep, often overwhelming attachment to physical places. But lately, it's been different.

I keep thinking about details. Moving to Boston took my worldview out of my head, shook it until it didn't resemble its former self, and put it back. Maybe it wasn't Boston, specifically; it was probably just leaving Michigan. I space out thinking about big cities and their suburbs across America, even across the world. Places I know nothing about that are as significant to others as my home is to me. I think about little coffee shops all around the world that someone owns, someone cares about, someone patronizes. A high school football team in some town in Iowa that everyone there worships. Palm trees in front yards in California. The sidewalks in New York that an insane number of people cross every day. I don't know why it blows my mind so much to think that there are communities just like mine all over the place. I visited Denton, Texas for a conference recently and I experienced a strange feeling of bewilderment when I found that the small city's downtown center was warm, charming - filled with music and amazing food and lovely people. Why did this surprise me?

Living in a large city, you tend to feel like it's the center of the universe. I should probably say something like "maybe it's just me", but I bet the feeling is common. Big cities are constantly moving, glowing, shouting, singing. Often their residents have a sense of elitism or a deep and profound pride. I was one of them. "We're better than everyone else. Everyone else is small. We're world-class and important - why would you want to be anywhere else?"

I fell hard for Boston, but the whole time I was there I was convinced that Ann Arbor/metro Detroit was my "real home". I'm back now, back where I was so certain I belonged, and somehow I'm experiencing a similar kind of bewilderment. Something feels off. It feels like maybe I'm not so sure anymore.

A while back I learned that a friend from the east coast, while traveling across the country, made a point of avoiding driving through - or heaven forbid, visiting - Detroit. It was innocent and in no way directed at me, but I'm not sure I've felt the same kind of offense since. Wounded, I stewed over how people who have never so much as been to Michigan are worried that Detroit is so dangerous that they can't even drive on the adjacent freeways. These people have no idea; I'll say it again, these people have no idea. Cultural, gifted with the loyal who stay, a stunning sprawl with swaying streetlights. Ask Josh, who now commutes from Ann Arbor to downtown Detroit all week long, parking across from Comerica and working a few floors up the heart-stoppingly gorgeous David Broderick Tower. He stares out at Woodward every day. Ask him, after living within 45 minutes of Boston his whole life, what he thinks about the idea of avoiding Detroit. He'll tell you.

I become so defensive of this place. But somehow I was surprised by Denton's warmth, and my first thought was "Well, it's no Ann Arbor." There it is: the pride, ugly and judgmental, showing up right on schedule. Scarier, though? Now, in my new life in my old home, I find myself aching over Boston. I miss living there, no matter how much I love where I am now. I'll sit on the Diag and marvel at this beautiful place, and somehow, still, I find some "fault". I'll notice myself critiquing the Detroit skyline when flying back in from a trip, somehow, still. I'll judge the liveliness of a main street at night, somehow, still. As if any of these comparisons are fair or justified. I'm ashamed and embarrassed of this thought, but it arrives: "Well, it's no Boston."

"Are you really home? What is that for you? Is it a location, a house?"

Four years ago, my home was here. Today, it's more. The word means something else - something brand new, a bigger memory.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I've got nowhere else to go

I now live twenty miles away from the house I grew up in, with the red shutters and red side door. Eighty-six miles from the camp where we ran through the rain. Fifteen miles from Mikey's old home on the dirt road, which has been sold and now belongs to someone else. Thirty or so miles from that suburban street I visited a few times, even though now I don't really think of it anymore. Nearly 710 miles from my nephew. 747 miles from my favorite coffee shop, despite the fact that I left it on sad terms. 165 miles from the first place that really changed my life, my alma mater, and Megan and Brittany's house on the beach. Twenty-five miles from Franz's old place where we managed to get black hair dye stained into the carpet. 809 miles from the lighthouse in Maine that was important before I even knew it. 539 miles from one friend, 244 from some others, 2,348 from two others.

It feels like I'm thinking about every place all the time, all the details, every mile, all the bits and pieces that make each of them my home. That's just it: they all are.

this is my home, this is my home / where I go when I don't know where else to go
do you feel safe?