I pulled my makeup bag and toothbrush out of my suitcase this morning, got ready, and thought about putting them right back in. I got in at midnight last night/this morning and I am going on another trip tomorrow. Then I remembered that tomorrow’s trip is not overnight, sighed in relief, and moved to put the toothbrush in its holder on the bathroom sink. Just as quickly, I remembered that my next overnight trip is in five days and glanced back at the suitcase, resigned.

Does five days justify unpacking? On one hand, I am lazy and hate packing more than a lot of things. On the other hand, I hate living out of a suitcase even more, at least when I am (a) paying exorbitant rents to play house with Husband and (b) not on vacation.

I’m no stranger to living out of a suitcase. When I was twenty, and still a traveling novice, I packed a gallon of laundry detergent, a desk lamp, and half my wardrobe into three oversize suitcases and two carry-ons for seven weeks in New Orleans. When I was twenty-two, and getting ready to try on a new life, I still hadn’t learned my lesson, and packed everything I owned into thirds: 1/3 into storage, 1/3 into my car, and the rest into Husband’s apartment or the arms of grateful Craigslist bargain-hunters.

The plan was to leave Tucson shortly after graduation and move back into my parent’s house for the summer before law school, to save money and such. I couldn’t bear to leave Tucson, though, and after dropping the last trunkful of boxes at the storage unit, I edited everything impressive off of my resume, and swung by our then-favorite local bakery and coffee shop and filled out an application. I didn’t mention that I was leaving for law school in three months; I did mention my stints as a sandwich artist and purveyor of soft pretzels across from the Game Daze at the Superstition Springs mall. They hired me on the spot.

It made perfect sense, I thought, to spend my last summer in Arizona rotating between friends’ apartments and baking scones, lease-free. If you’ve ever loved a city, you know the feeling I’m talking about, of wanting to sleep on sofas rather than admit that the place you’ve grown up or grown into is no longer home.

I never started the job at the bakery. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s knowing when relationships have run their course, and as attractive as the idea of turning into an overqualified barista was, I wasn’t about to be homeless for it. The first thing I did when I moved back to my parents house was buy a plastic storage container with three drawers to house the contents of my suitcase for the summer. Every other weekend or so, when I’d head down to Tucson to visit Husband, I’d shove a few dresses and my toothbrush into a tote bag, and upon returning to the futon in my brother’s old room, I’d hastily put my things into their temporary spots in an effort to blunt the sting of my heart ripping into two pieces. Because even though I felt homeless, I was really just torn between Tucson and Phoenix, between my boyfriend and my family, between love and more love.

My heart is scattered all over the country now. Every time I drive to a new city, I trail bits behind me, in every roadside rest stop or cheap motel that I called home, even for a night. Every time a loved one moves, they drag a few still-fluttering tissues with them. And I’m still beating back the throb by unpacking, furiously, and insisting at the end of every trip that I am home. Chicago is home. Husband is home. I’ve got to have one somewhere, right?

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7 Responses to Unpacking

  1. KaraJean says:

    I love the last 3 paragraphs, but especially the last one.

  2. UK Yankee says:

    Home is a tricky thing. I feel like I have homes across the world, and wherever I am, it still hurts to be away. I loved what you said in this post. For me, husband and God are home. They’re the only constants in all the moving and packing and unpacking.

  3. Melanie Carbine says:

    I’m homeward bound but I still don’t have a destination. I think though that today I let go of the lingering desire to stay in Majuro. I’m going to finish up what I’m doing and then I’ll leave.

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