Sunday, February 25, 2007

Back home and feeling homeless

I arrived home late last night 2/24/07 after six weeks of leave and travel that included a cruise of the Hawaiian islands, visits, job interviews, and parties in three major US cities on the mainland plus my hometown in Albany, NY and then a 10-day tour of Egypt. How odd to think of Sarajevo as home.

That's what it felt like standing in the customs line in that gray light at the airport and struggling with terrible bosanski to tell the cab driver where I wanted to go. I felt back. There at last was the graffiti and litter strewn stone building, the front door with three panes of glass newly broken out, the badly lit three flights of stairs. I made two slow and painful trips up bumping against my laptop bag, carryon, hundred-pound purse and heaving my giant roller bag. This was way too much luggage for someone who prefers travelling with one back pack. But there at last was the door to home and my warm bed. I put in the key.

After half a turn, however, the door suddenly opened up from the inside. Standing inside in boxer shorts was a startled young man. Hello, he said. In English.

"Hello," I replied. "I live here. Who are you and what are you doing in my house?"

Actually, he was in my bed. Three other young men were with him in my house. Romanian boy journalists, all invited in byDrew, my boss.

My apartment is technically owned by my company and Drew figured I would never get back before the 25th at the earliest, so he'd rented out the place to the investigative reporters we are starting a new regional project with this month. They were holding meetings about the project during the week.

"I'm hoping you aren't being too bitchy to them," Drew told me when we roused him on his cellphone.

Not too, even after seeing the puddles in the bathroom. I am nothing if not flexible. I just took over the study, throwing out one of the squatters to the living room couch, and rolled up on a futon.

Funny ending to a long trip.

It took a long time to fall asleep. Not just because sleeping is not the best thing for a 56-year-old back taxed by hauling heavy luggage up three flights of stairs. I kept thinking about how I really don't have a home anymore. I visit my mother and stay in my father's old room. I stay at Mary and Bud's in a guestroom they call my room. I stay in my niece Jessica's room at my sister's and in grand style in the beautiful NYC apartment my college friend Barbara Rosenwach owns. I live out of a suitcase when I am in all these places. All the little things that make a home, scrapbooks, knick-knacks, recipe cards, are in a welter of cardboard boxes in my mother's attic unlabeled and jumbled.

I may be overdoing this wandering business. Someone recently told me I probably should just stay overseas since I didn't seem to appreciate how great it was in the United States. I felt hot about that comment and hurt. I mean, home is home even if you criticize it.

On the other hand, it's not like I ever wanted to settle down or be tied down. And you can't deny the excitement of never knowing what you'll find when you put the key in the lock.

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