Walk all the way down seventh street, past the church ladies in broad-brimmed pink, over the disused tracks, past the playground and the weedy young men toying with their bikes. Walk past the bright blue school bus, the house infested with ghosts, the old men on the porch. Eye the schoolyard sculpture of a cat (its message inscrutable: claw your way to learning?); avoid the noses of dogs; dodge rivulets of undergraduate puke.
It's a beautiful morning. The gaps between the houses -cottages, bungalows, Queen Annes- widen. There's a graveyard to your left, rows and rows of people who've been and gone. There's a smaller graveyard to your right. The trees, half-naked, shimmer and twist. Your lungs go about their business. If you walked long enough, and hard enough, you'd wade off shelf of your map into waves of corn.
This is love.
It's not rom-com love or Nora Roberts love. There's no how-we-met-and-kissed, no bride-and-groom cake topper. It's place love, and these days, no one talks about it. In our global economy, with careers that leapfrog from city to city, it's almost shameful to admit to a passion for one particular where in a wide world of wheres. It is okay -almost obligatory- to love a person. To give your heart to a place, to sacrifice for it, to rejigger your life to accommodate your love-
Eccentric at best. At worst, perverted.
To get to my place, I learned, at the advanced age of 27, to drive on the freeway. The first time I attempted the trip, I drove down the back roads white-knuckled, my heart turning over at five times the speed of my engine. I couldn't change lanes. I couldn't adjust the dial of the radio. Every ounce of my energy was directed toward following the curves in the road. The station broke apart, faded into static. Afterwards I ached for days, but I was home.
To get to my place, I booked, at 29, a plane ticket. Terrified of flying, I hopped on anyway, closing my eyes against the bumps and the clouds and the relentless up-down It was awful. I'm already plotting to do it again.
But we have rules about love, about the scope of what you can do for it. You may sacrifice a place for a person. You may not sacrifice a person for a place. And as long as I'm married to the person to whom I'm married, I can never live where I love. It's a bonesaw feeling, like cutting off your hand at the wrist.
We're not supposed to admit how much it hurts. But I'm gormless and sorry and today the sky -my sky- is its stabbing, singular blue.