02 August, 2010

Transatlantic ii

When last i left you, dear readers, we were sitting in Wiesses Brauhaus sipping Bavarian beer. What followed reminds me a bit of a certain breakneck 3-minute sequence from a film (when the character Victor retells his travels in Europe, in Roger Avary's "Rules of Attraction"; for best results, read this as fast as you can): I left the brauhaus, rented a bicycle, pedaled across the river, spotted nudists among the sunbathers on its pebbly banks (it's Germany), met a Bulgarian student who was bicycling as well, travelled together and chatted for about an hour, tried desperately to rehydrate at an outdoor cafe, said goodbye in the S-bahn station, rode back to the airport, made a mad dash for the plane, boarded last, watched "Bend it Like Beckham" and a couple other films while listening to the captain's periodic updates on the World Cup final match, silently groaned when Spain won, landed in Boston, got through customs & border protection (where the Iraq vet who checked my passport said "why the hell would you want to go there?"), found my sister and her family among the international arrivals crowd, exchanged hugs, rode to Manchester, found the couch, and slept like a drugged man after a 24-hour day.

The following week was similar, whirlwind-like : visit a friend near Boston, hang out with our Uncle on Cape Cod, take the Downeaster back to Maine. Dad met me in Portland, where i felt a certain elation, a feeling that's perilously tough to describe - that of a young person who's finally seen a little piece of the world and now the place you call home feels smaller, but smaller in a good way, a confident way.

It's even harder to describe the process of readjustment. At the surface, nothing happens. You know all the highways; not that much has changed in six months - but the city is forty kilometers away and there's no bus, and now that you've lived in another sphere the concept of commuting takes getting used to again. Your eyes still have the gaze of a nomad, and now and then it catches you unprepared, when you see your own landscape roll by in the same way you have seen the dry steppes of northern Iraq roll by. And then home folds you into its embrace and you don't want to let go, even though you're clawing for air, worried you'll suffocate.