But it doesn’t have to be California — that’s only one of the places, and probably the least likely. It could be San Francisco, or Daly City, or Oakland. Hayward, Alameda, or Redwood City. I like the sound of there. There probably aren’t redwoods anymore, what with the city springing up around them, but I like to imagine the office buildings nestled in between the roots, trunks so close you could reach out and stroke the bark like a cat waiting to purr.
But it doesn’t have to be California, or Portland, Oregon, skyline framed with white-tipped mountains, and I could hang around Powell’s until they either gave me a job or accepted me as someone whose first name they ought to know. We could build our tiny house there, or live in some loft much like the one we have already, the wood floors scuffed by so many grunge lovers passing by.
But it doesn’t have to be Portland, or Seattle where I’d need to buy a slicker and boots, and would walk to the coast, hoping to see orca whales. I would vote for Roderick for city council, and make better friends with Danielle, perhaps sitting in her house, bouncing the baby on my knee and writing together after he’d gone to bed. I could go home to long lines of rain on the windows, and know the rocky coast was out there, leading to Alaska.
But it doesn’t have to be Seattle, or the artist’s refuge Austin in the desert of conservative desert. I’d wear my cowboy boots to death, and learn where the barbecue places were cheap, and buy another pair of boots, real Texas boots from a girl in a bolo tie and drive outside the city limits into the flatness of dust and drawls, maybe picking up smoking again in the Southern tip of everything America.
It doesn’t have to be Austin, and it certainly isn’t New York City anymore, that overcrowded island and the lovely sadness of the Coney Island amusement park, tucked away from the pin-stripes down by the Wall Street bull, and the greenery of the Village I fell in love with when I was seventeen, falling equally in love with a pylon-orange shirt and green army pants, wondering who on the street would be my college friends, and I never lived there, but meant to many times.
I went to Boston, and felt claustrophobic, being able to walk the entire city on a whim, and feeling like Cambridge was another world, though it was only cross the river. But there were solitary moments of dancing above the traffic to outdated songs on my iPod mini and strutting through the pathways, pretending to be a model because I was 18 and filled with romantic ideas of loneliness until the romance fell away and it was only me and the cold Atlantic Ocean, and nobody else.
It has to be somewhere, though, and I only started with California because of Joni Mitchell lilting and chirruping about coming home from Paris, Greece, and Spain amidst all the dismal newspaper headlines that had become the world. Now I know all the words, and especially the longing when you see something of home hiding in among the worldly news, the small smattering of words tugging at your breastbone through the streets of strangers and onto a plane through clouds and sunrises or sets until you’re somewhere beautiful again in that old familiar way.
I haven’t been there yet, but I ask it every day oh, will you take me as I am?
Take me as I am.