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"Home is whenever I'm with you"

There is a place where the sun sets. The jagged shadows of the mountains are far off in the distance. The cubic edges of skyscraper roofs line up before the mountain peaks. And in between, a giant glowing sphere disintegrates. Pink clouds disperse across the mountains. Orange light bounces and glimmers off of the silver buildings. And as the sky goes from pink to purple to midnight blue, stars don’t form in the sky. They pop out across the valley, all twinkling little lights crowded together; only shooting stars graze the heavens with their loud engines and blinking bulbs. And after the busy night and the quiet dawn, day approaches. And there where the sun sets, where the mountain shadows stand stall and the skyscrapers sparkle, there is a gray horizon line. This line appears only during daylight, when the mountains are brown and dry, when the buildings are dull and the sky is clear except for one stray wispy cloud. This is my viewpoint. I see that line every day as I stand on my porch, looking out to a valley sitting in smog. Sometimes I say it’s beautiful, but I only call it that because it’s familiar, because it is my home.
What is the definition of home? Shelter where you sleep? Does it only provide you a bed and warmth? So it could be anywhere with a roof? It is your residence, where you reside. So it could be temporary, you can reside anywhere. Or it could be where you seek solace, safety, comfort, where you find love and love stays. Love resides in home. We all eventually leave home, and there are very few of us who ever find our way back. I left home with no intention of coming back.
I was that rebellious teenager. The one who couldn’t wait to leave, get out. I didn’t hate Los Angeles, but I wasn’t a fan of Southern California. I was more liberal than most, more radical than most. I wore colorful clothing that didn’t match and lots of jewelry. I didn’t eat meat or fish and considered caring for the planet one of my top priorities. By my peers, by my parents, by my boyfriends, I was referred to as hippie.
I desired to go north, where liberal ideas were much more common, where people didn’t care so much about make up or celebrities, where veganism wasn’t weird, where people were much more peaceful and relaxed, drank tea instead of coffee, where there was more acceptance, less judgment. I wanted a forest, not a city. Humboldt gave me that.
The moment I set foot on the campus of Humboldt State University, I fell in love with it. I knew this is where I wanted to be and I wouldn’t give up that dream. Even though my high school sweetheart pleaded in his head that I would stay, nothing would make me stay. I didn’t want industrial LA anymore, urban life was something I grew up with, I longed for change.
As senior year ended, my high school friends stopped being my friends. My parents thought I was out of control and I was sick of their rules. My boyfriend began to break my heart with his unwillingness to accept me completely. I was ready to leave. I wanted freedom and a new life. I wanted to start over.
Summer came and it was going to be another hot season in LA. I would be home all three months until the middle of August, when I would begin a new adventure, a twelve hour drive away. With friendships turned to dust and a relationship collapsing, I predicted it being a
depressing summer. One sad summer in a city I didn’t want to call my own. Though now, I long for that summer, to begin it again, because it was one of the best times of my life.
I have two different lives I lead, the real and the imagined. Reality speaks for itself. I live now in Humboldt County, Arcata, California to be exact. I see redwood trees every day, I go on walks in the woods and listen to bubbling brooks. I don’t wear make up to accent my features and I don’t worry that people will think I dress too oddly. I have encouraging, supportive friends who love nature and health food and don’t dress trendy. I get along well with my parents and talk to them almost every day. I’m far enough away to miss them, but a good distance away to not be crazed by them consistently. I’m happy with where I am because it is the lifestyle I wanted. I’m content, for the most part.
Fantasy clashes with reality and gives me a different life to consider. My subconscious echoes in my dreams the wishful thinking I harbor. There is this idea in my head that I didn’t leave Los Angeles. I go to a junior college. When asked about my career path, I say I want to be a writer, not that I want to work in environmental policy. I have one best friend who is more flirtatious than me, eats junk food, and always has to put eyeliner on. Every weekend is an endless array of parties, clubs, and dancing. I stay out too late and my parents complain that I am irresponsible and inconsiderate. It’s a life where I live at home, but am always gone from the house. A life where I regret partying too much and where the friends I have don’t portray themselves as the ideal friend. This life sounds wretched and disturbing, yet something inside me aches for it un-admittedly.
They are certain places in LA that carry sweet significance to me. Like the internet café where we ordered boba drinks. Or the sidewalks where we strode together, walking his dog. My
pool, where we jumped and splashed and swam and laughed. Santa Monica, where he got lost and wouldn’t listen to my directions. The hookah bar, the improv theatre, the fancy restaurant he
took me to the last night before I left. The boulevard that ran from his house all the way up to mine. And the place, where we sat in his car looking out across the valley of stars against the mountain tops, talking about love and what it would be like when I was gone.
I promised myself I wouldn’t stay somewhere I didn’t want to be, especially for a man. But the love ignited in me that summer, the regret that haunts me now, the feelings silenced inside me, make me wish I turned that car around.
He was not my high school sweetheart. I didn’t meet him until I was about to graduate high school. I didn’t date him until I was out of high school. I thought of it as a summer fling, something to help rid me of my sorrow. Something meant to be meaningless was actually meant for something more. Interconnected from the very beginning, it was as if Fate was speaking to us. His childhood friend was part of my graduating class. We lived fifteen minutes away from each other our entire lives. I went to an acting class and he was there, that’s where we met, introducing ourselves, not even realizing we knew all of the same people.
All over that city we were, from the suburbs to the tourist sections, we dotted little memories of us. And though the figures of us are far gone from those places, the memories, they last there. Inside the Holiday Inn Elevator, footprints pressed into the sand, sitting at a table in an Italian restaurant, a dance studio where I took an acting class, all the memories stay there forever. They live in a city I once longed to leave.
There is a place where the sun sets. Water lays out like a sheet of glass, still and calm. Clouds of fog roll over it and a giant glowing sphere disintegrates. Pink clouds disperse and light
shimmers on the silver water. As darkness falls, little lights begin to spark up, almost like my valley of stars I know. Bright lights form across the land, just like what I know and I am reminded of home. Then day approaches and I see sky, I see water, the horizon line is clear. The hazy line does not exist, I remember that I am not home.
Arcata is where I live, where I reside. I sleep here. I eat here. I live here. Humboldt is my home. I am safe. I am comfortable. But there is one thing missing. My heart didn’t follow me to where I am. Love stayed in Los Angeles. I came here, I reside here. Love stayed there, love resides in LA. Love lasting in memories all around LA.
It is every day I wake up shivering with frost on my window, dew on the ground. I go to the cafeteria, I go to my classes, I spend each day as if everything is fine because it is. Because I am living my new life and I am completely satisfied with it. It is every night I rest my head on my pillow, close my eyes, and replay that summer. I lull myself to sleep thinking what if I stayed? Maybe I could have made that summer my life. I wake up to an alarm, shivering I shake off regret, and cycle through my day again.
It is not that I changed. I continue to have ambition driving me, looking toward the future, nothing holding me back. I continue to pursue what I want, do what I want, and even when romance filters in, putting itself as an obstacle between me and my goal, I don’t let it stand in my way. I chose the life I wanted, I didn’t stay behind. But each day, I think what if ? I remember that he was what I wanted too, that he was an incredible dream I could have had. Suddenly sadness overpowers me, every feeling in my body, every thought in my head, every beat of my heart urges me to go back home and stay there because he is what I want too.
In the midst of this, I look down at my wrist where a Capricorn bracelet is tied in a knot. I notice how I can’t take it off, how it is permanently twisted onto my arm. That little present he gave me, it’s permanently on me. The love we felt, the love we gave, it’s permanent. Though I
left and I have some regret, I don’t, I won’t let it consume me. I take in the experience I had, let it sink through me, and be grateful that I found something so special. I think maybe I can find something like that again, maybe I will find him again. If our love is permanently marked across our hearts, if Los Angeles is permanently where our love stays, if we are permanently, perfectly linked, then maybe we will find each other again. With a promise that if it is meant to be, it will be, I kissed that summer good bye and move on with the hope that one day I can live that imagined life. One summer taught me that there is a rainbow after rain, that there is light in the darkest of times, that it is not giving up on love, it is living for the experience and understanding that life goes on and if the love is right, then life will bring it back to you once more.
Between the two different lives, I am happy with the life I chose. It is the better choice, I believe, because it leads me in the direction I want my life to take. And though love rests in an LA summer and couldn’t last as the seasons changed, I am content with the memories kept in my heart and stored across all of LA.



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