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Monday, November 21, 2016

Feet on a Cold Tile Floor

This time 18 years ago, I was lying in my bed, soaking up the feeling of sleeping in my own room for the very last time. The cold tile floor met my feet when I sat up, swinging them to the floor so I could get up and look out my window again at the yellow points of light like a giant connect-the-dots puzzle. If I took the time to connect those dots, a giant heart with a hole in the middle of it would appear. My heart.

I looked out between the iron bars but my window sill was still empty. The one I loved had promised he would leave something there for me. It was still early though, so I slipped back into bed, restless with the thought of the morning. I wondered what my brother and sister were thinking--if they were sleeping or if the excitement of traveling was keeping them up too.

Eventually, the weariness of rushed packing, emotional goodbyes, and short nights overtook me and I fell asleep, only to wake with a start two hours later. I hurried once again to my window and there, in the dim moonlight, I saw a small package. I slipped my hand between the bars and pulled it inside. It was an envelope with a letter inside and a mix tape.

In one of my fits of religiosity, that I still regret to this day, I threw away that mix tape. Now, when I compare the music carefully chosen to express his heart, I can only think of one song that would have been considered somewhat dubious. The rest? Simply sentimental R&B from the 80s that would be tame compared to today's lyrics. Thankfully I wrote down the titles. The letter I still have, tucked away somewhere as a memento of those days.

Very few people knew why we were leaving. Keeping it hush until the very last moment, and then saying that we were going to the States for our education, kept the rumours from flying though I'm sure some did regardless. My mother told one family and I told the one who made me the mix tape. The fracture of family was not something looked upon kindly within the conservative Christian environment. While I know now that there were others who cared and would have been ready to lend support, in the maelstrom of detaching from all that was familiar, we had no ability to reach out. We had to manage, for that moment, on our own.

Now, half a lifetime later, I sit on my bed and listen to the wind howl outside my third-floor window. The one who made the mix tape is long gone along with the memories. My family grew much closer than when we first began our transcontinental voyage that landed us in the New Country. When I go to the roof, I can see yellow points of light in a much more compact connect-the-dots puzzle as the city has grown up to meet the campus. This time the dots create a double heart. One for the 18-year old who thought she would never feel at home again. One for the woman who came home. To stay.

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