I want to own the entire Eastern shoreline, but it’s just not possible.
The strip of land just south of Miami, the only place in the world where the wind whipped my hair into my face and I just didn’t care.
The curves of NC-69 I hugged, the ones that plopped me down by a small town university and carted me off to sorority girls with red Solo cups.
The forests in West Virginia that told me that yes, for 24.5 miles, I could drive more than 70 miles per hour and get away with it.
The string of slush in the center of the Interstate, swooping my back tires into frenzies and sending me head on into the valley of grass between North and South, between one home and another.
The etched names of those who had made it safely to an island in New York State, bringing with them a measly supply of belongings and a heart that beat faster for freedom.
The sound of WFAN playing well south of the Brooklyn Bridge, in a town that held those kinds of people, the Sports Radio 66 kind, hostage just by looking at them on Sundays in the grocery store.
I wanted to own them all, the places I’d been, tell you that I was not a Marylander, but a Philadelphian, a New Yorker, a real Jersey girl.
That I had lived for weeks in houses dotting the Carolina coastline, rode the Chesapeake Bay Bridge enough times to know how many tunnels and bridges I had to cross before I reached a home that smelled like salt water and white bread.
That the best view in all of Virginia is atop a hill in a small western town, in a dining hall that doesn’t open on Saturdays anymore, in a university that plays its football games without my cheers now.
But it’s just not the way that life goes.
We cannot stretch ourselves into arms and legs and elbows and knees, amputate them and leave ourselves bloody and broken, always feeling the phantom limbs no matter where we set our luggage down, no matter where we light a pumpkin candle and turn on the front stove burner and make a home-cooked meal.
I wish we could light these candles and send them off to the places we’ve been, flickering for us even if we cannot ever come back to see them burn out.
We can be here. We could be there. We once knew that.
But I worry that we’ll crumble into a pile if we try to hold all of Carolina and New Jersey and New York and Pennsylvania and those two years in Connecticut and four in Virginia and the bumper-to-bumper traffic in West Virginia and that time we slept in the New Castle County Airport parking lot until the sun came up in Delaware.
The middle and the edges of Florida. The panhandle of Maryland that almost took us away from this Earth forever. The Eastern side where we only know a small section of roads.
At some point, we have to pick our homes and our houses, our memories and our come agains, our this-will-always-bring-me-back versus our I-can’t-think-of-this-without-my-stomach-aching.
There will be cemeteries where we never want to return. Flowers that will always smell like funeral homes. Hospitals that will be the only thing we see of this town.
There will be cars that, no matter how many times Apple pulls a new gadget out of its pocket, will always drive away when we hit the play button on our iPhones.
The phones we lost that broke more than screens but hearts and text message memories and the sound of sweet dreams when you’re only sixteen.
There will be all of that, but we cannot possibly take it all with us. We cannot.
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